Today, “fake news” is everywhere. As a valuation and damage expert, I often use news and collect data from websites when conducting research on industries, and monitoring economic trends. Like you, I am also a consumer of information – whether on TV, websites, or social media. Since fake news seems to be on the minds of everyone, here are some helpful thoughts on stopping its spread.
What is Fake News?
Fake news falls in two general categories: misinformation, and disinformation.
As defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, misinformation occurs when you unknowingly spread wrong information. This occurs when you catch only a small piece of news, or see something on social media that is not true, but you think it is. So, with misinformation, the intent is not to mislead.
Merriam-Webster defines disinformation as the deliberate spread of misinformation or rumors to influence public opinion or to obscure the truth. Disinformation is a very powerful tool that spreads propaganda in autocratic countries and is actively used in America today.
How to spot it?
Before sharing something on social media, make sure you first read it. Often the title may differ from the core content of the article. As you go through the article, ask yourself some critical questions, such as:
- Is the article from a reputable source? Some sites (such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal) fact check and the verify sources. Other sites spread rumors or unsubstantiated stories. Always exercise care when you see articles disparaging a political party or person without strong sourced facts.
- Look at the web address and verify the source. For instance, is it from abcnews.go.com or abcnews.go.com.co? There are many domains, with .com being the most familiar. When you see other domains, you should always question the legitimacy of the site. Especially troubling are domains that include: .ru (Russia), .kp (North Korea), and .cn (China) just to list a few.
- When comparing the article’s title to its content, does the title sensationalize or overstate the article?
- Who is the author and what is his or her reputation? Be especially suspicious of an article without an identified author.
- Does the article cite sources? If so, consider looking at the sources’ website to dig further and verify. Be wary of articles that specify exclusive information that is only contained there.
- Exercise caution with relying on memes. Memes are easy to create and can include misleading content to catch your eye and hit an emotional nerve.
- Lastly, do some fact checking yourself by using some good web-site verification tools such as politifact.com and snopes.com.
Regardless of where you are on the political or social spectrum, always exercise care before forwarding or posting information. By asking yourself some critical questions, you can help reduce the spread of “fake news”. On a related note, always exercise safe internet practices to protect your identity and information. See this related link for some helpful suggestions. Baum Blaugrund is always available to assist you with your expert needs. Please contact us for more information.