How to Avoid Fake News
There's no denying it - this is the age of 'Alternative Facts.' From lies about Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump as president, to fake stories of Elton John receiving private calls from Vladimir Putin, it's tough to distinguish fact from fiction in a society where rumours get spread around more easily than butter left out of the fridge on a summer's day. The truth is, there is no such thing as an alternative fact - quite plainly and simply, these are just lies.
It's easy to get lost amongst the mess of information out there, which is why Am I Normal is here to help you take a step back and distinguish reality from a red herring...
Is it normal to fall for fake news?
Face the facts
These are a few steps you can take to ensure you don't end up being taken for a fake news ride...
Don't fall for photoshop
With the magic of computer manipulation, virtually any image can be created from scratch and made to look real. The website Slate once ran an experiment in which they showed readers photos of historical events, with only some of them being 100% accurate; the rest were images of recent political history that had been altered in some way. Nearly half of the readers actually claimed to have remembered the fake events taking place - meaning that their memories had been warped by the edited photos. Seems we can't even trust our own minds! A good way of fact-checking a photo to see if it's real, is to Google reverse-image search it - simply save the photo to your device, upload it to Google, and see where else on the internet it shows up. If it has appeared on reputable websites, then it's a safe bet that it's legit. If it hasn't, then it's a good idea to question it's validity. Check the end of this article for a link to a list websites that share fake news and photos.
The font of knowledge
Believe it or not, an experiment found that simply printing something in a certain font can be enough for people to assume the story is a credible one. And which is the most trustworthy font? Baskerville. with Comic Sans and Helvetica being the least. There is no conclusive answer as to why this is the case, but the belief is that Baskerville is considered to be more professional and therefore more believable. The moral here is not to assume a story is real just because it's been professionally formatted!
Keep an eye on the site
There are a few ways to tell if a website is legit. If it ends in com.co, then it is highly likely to be fake. Com.co is the domain extension for Colombia, and popular brands rarely buy domains to this extension. If you are still unsure, why not Google the website name? If it's fake, people have probably already pointed this out. If it's a blog or a 'Wordpress' site, keep in mind that things on there are unlikely to have been fact-checked as these are personal websites.
Fake news expert Craig Silverman on how the rise of fake news may have helped Trump secure his presidential position:
"Overwhelmingly, when you looked at the stories that performed really well on Facebook, they were pro-Trump or they were anti-Clinton. And that was a very clear trend. The stuff that was anti-Trump was just not getting the same traction. And so I think what happened is that a lot of people creating fake news looked at this and said, well, let's go all-in on Trump."
Don't get stuck in the echo chamber
it's easy to get caught up in a bubble of what you believe in and to actively seek out information that reaffirms your biases, but to be honest you are just kidding yourself! It's positive to engage in conversation with people that have opinions that differ to yours, and to look at news sources you wouldn't normally read, for a balanced view of the world. There might be information out there that challenges ideas you've never thought twice about, and remember - knowledge is power!
Sharing isn't always caring
Believe it or not, you can have a surprisingly large influence when it comes to the spread of fake news. It's easy to press the 'share' button when you see an article, photo, or video on Facebook or Twitter that catches your eye, but ask yourself if this is being featured on a reputable website or news source first. If you see something that appears odd, report it to whichever social media platform you're on, and if you spot someone share something you know to be a fake, be a good mate and tell them!
Still feel like you're in the dark? This handy document written by assistant professor of communication and media Melissa Zimdars outlines a large number of websites that have been known to distribute fake news.