3 ways to spot fake news online

3 ways to spot fake news online
3 ways to spot fake news online

We have all seen an article that seems completely crazy or unbelievable on the news feed of a social network… Unfortunately, these days, there is a lot of false information circulating. If a statement or "fact" sounds too good to be true (or triggers a strong emotional response), it is likely that it is a false statement. The good news is, you have the ability to tell the difference between what's genuine and what's deceptive. False information is not only irritating, it is also dangerous! If you know how to recognize them, you can help stop their spread.


Method 1 of 3: spot false or misleading articles

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Step 1. Be skeptical

When you see a post or article revealing information that you've never seen before, take the time to analyze it. Do not scroll down the page accepting it, and do not share statements if you are not sure they are genuine.

  • It is normal to have doubts. Before sharing a statement, it's best to be sure it's true!
  • Misinformation can do a lot of harm, especially when it comes to a topic as serious as COVID-19.
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Step 2. Examine the source and date

Go to the source to make sure the info has been published on this site. Check the date it was uploaded to see if it is still valid. The date is usually found near the author's name.

  • If, for example, you come across a post about a terrorist attack that mentions the specific site it came from, go to that site and make sure that it really is the source of that post.
  • The date has a decisive role. Information about the number of Sars-CoV-2 cases that there were 6 months ago is certainly no longer relevant today.
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Step 3. Search for the author's name

Scan the article to find the name of the person who wrote it. See if it is a journalist (or expert) who specializes in this area to make sure the person knows what they are talking about.

  • If the author's name is not mentioned, it is possible that the article is false or misleading.
  • For example, an article concerning well-being or health is more credible when it has been written by a doctor than if it is published without naming the author.
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Step 4. Find other sources

Use Google (it's your friend) to find sources and organizations that share this claim. If you only see the information on one site, it may be misleading and false.

If for example you see a text about a fire in the Amazon rainforest, look for other sites mentioning it to validate the info

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Step 5. Beware of anything affecting your emotions

False information is often created in a way that makes you feel grief, anger, fear or anxiety, this is a technique used by counterfeiters. Remember this when you read an article that triggers strong emotions in you. It may then be false information written with the aim of triggering an emotional reaction in you.

If, for example, you see a headline that says “New Law Cancels Superannuation Payments”, that is most likely a false statement

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Step 6. Analyze the language used

Quality information uses straightforward, clear language and is presented in a very professional manner. When you come across a new statement, read the text carefully and pay attention to the language intended to influence you on the facts.

  • For example, a good quality article might include things like "The authorities are not sure of the origin of the accident which is being investigated." "A misleading or equivocal text can present it in a completely different way, for example" The investigators have no idea what the cause of the accident was and will probably never find it. "
  • Watch out for provocations and offensive language.

Method 2 of 3: Spot fake memes and fake images

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Step 1. Check all quotes

There are a lot of memes on the internet that feature quotes attributed to specific people. Copy the quote and paste it into your browser to find the actual author. If it doesn't match the one mentioned in the meme, you have the answer: it's intoxicating …

  • If for example you see a meme which claims that "All cars will be hybrids in 2022" and which is attributed to the Secretary of State for Transport at the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, go to their site to check the info or paste it in the search bar of your browser and start the search.
  • If you see a statement in a meme and you can't find any website validating it, it is most certainly false information …
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Step 2. Go to a demystification site

When you see an image, computer graphic, meme, or claim, try searching for it on a site that specializes in compiling fake news. Read what the site says about this statement.

  • If, for example, you come across a meme that claims the government is sending people to the planet Mars, check a demystification site to see if this is true.
  • There are a few sites in French, you will find them on this Wikipedia page.
  • These sites haven't covered all the memes and claims that circulate on the internet (there are a lot of them…), but they are good places to look.
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Step 3. Enlarge the image

It can help you see details and know if the info is genuine. For example, look at the language on road signs in pictures, flags, vehicle license plates, or any other clue that can help you find where the photo came from. If it doesn't match the claim it's related to, that is certainly misleading information.

If for example the meme mentions an event taking place in Italy, but you see that the license plates of the vehicles are Canadian, you know that there is something wrong and that it is most likely a false information

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Step 4. Search the internet for the image

Bing and Google (among others) allow you to search for an image on the internet, for example right click on it and choose Search the image on Google or copy its address (right click and copy image address) and paste it in the search bar of your browser then launch the search. So you might find its origin and be able to find out if it matches the statement.

  • If you see a meme that has an image showing an alien spaceship, search for the image on Google. If you find out that it was posted 5 years ago or on a joke site, the information is probably not to be taken seriously …
  • You can use a tool like RevEye to see if a previous version of the image has previously been posted on the internet and is now being used to promote a false claim.

Method 3 of 3: Discover fake accounts and bots

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Step 1. Analyze the account username

This is not irrefutable proof, but an indicator. If a user's name contains a sequence of random letters and numbers, it may have been generated by a computer program. Look at the username of the person who uploaded the post to see if it's weird.

  • It is even more suspicious when a sequence of random numbers or letters follows the name of a famous character. A post from a user for example named "TomHanks573284" is particularly suspicious.
  • Remember, this isn't proof, it's just a clue that should put you on the hook.
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Step 2. Browse the user's profile

On most social networks, users have a profile containing various information such as education, favorite music, hobbies… Look at it to see if it matches the person's posts. If you detect anomalies, there is probably eel under the rock.

  • If, for example, a user shares a lot of violence and crime posts, but in their profile they say they are vegan, enjoy meditation, yoga, Tai Chi and play hang drum, that's enough curious do not you find?
  • Use common sense. Do you think it's a fake account? Remember the saying "When there is doubt, there is no doubt." The accounts created by bots try to appear legitimate, but some points can be curious. Have confidence in what you are feeling.
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Step 3. Look at the date the account was created

On some social networks, the date of creation of the account is displayed. If it has just been opened, it may be a fake account intended to spread false information.

If for example the account was created 2 months ago and the posts are all scandalous, it may be a fake account

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Step 4. Verify the authenticity of the profile photo

Look for the image on the internet with Bing or Google which have this function. If it is an image from a royalty-free image site or if it does not match the person's profile or posts, it may be a fake account or an account opened by a bot.

  • Photos from royalty-free image sites often indicate that the count was not made by a real person.
  • A non-human, cartoon or famous character image shows that the person wishes to remain anonymous, these profiles are generally less reliable.
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Step 5. Examine user activity

Observe what time the person puts their posts online. If they're posted all day and night, from different parts of the world, and contain non-objective politicized content or from other accounts, it might not be a real account.

If for example the user posts online continuously (24 hours a day), it is probably a bot

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