I run social media accounts for companies, and I’ve come across a lot of fake articles and hoaxes just as part of what I do. People I care about and think highly of have been sharing articles of Facebook that aren’t just incorrect or poorly written, but so biased that they cross the line into having a harmful agenda. However, the world being what it is right now, I (mostly) don’t blame anyone for seeing a hoax and believing it.
Here are some of my tactics to determine if an article is real or full of misinformation. Though these methods center around Facebook, they can be applied to any other social media platform as well.
TLDR: Use logic, be aware of your biases, and Google it.
1.) Pause and think about the headline. If it’s as extreme as “Ronald McDonald now works with ISIS trying to make YOUR BELOVED AMERICAN CHILDREN FAT” it’s probably not true.
2.) Is there a source cited in the article? If the source is vague like “the government” or “teachers everywhere” or “our source” maybe do a little more digging. If the source is hyperlinked (you can click on it and go to another site) check out that site. Is that site trustworthy? Also, does it cite itself? That’s cheating, and more importantly, it means no one agrees with them.
3.) Look at the date of the article. A lot of people are posting years-old articles like they’re new. If there are peaceful protests going on in a certain city, and someone shares a year-old picture of a riot going on in that same city, it’s going to look like the current protest is dangerous.
4.) Look at who owns the site. Not the author of the article, but the site itself — there’ll probably be an LLC name at the very bottom of the page. Copy and paste it and the headline of the article into Google. See what comes up. Other people usually find this stuff pretty quick, so if it’s a big enough hoax, it might be talked about.
5.) While you’re looking around the site for the date and company, ask yourself, does this site seem to be biased? And I don’t mean subtly. I mean huge, glaring ways, EVEN IF you agree with the content. Extremely biased blogs want to get your attention, and they’re not too picky about the actual truth and facts to get it. They know your biases, and they can and will use them against you.
6.) Is it a sponsored post? Be wary, especially if it says “studies say that…” This one is more for ads that are like “doctors HATE this new rule!” or “10 things that are KILLING your gut bacteria!” But this is also true of blogs and articles. Look to see if it says “sponsored” on the post.
7.) Does the site outright say something like “Facebook will not allow you to share this story since it blacklisted this entire site” — like this site was just too REAL and EDGY for Facebook — BUT did you find the article ON Facebook?
8.) Look at the language used in the articles. A trustworthy news site does not use really inflammatory language. It won’t have a call to arms. I found one that ends with “Prepare to defend your communities or watch them burn to the ground” which idk, doesn’t sound what a news station would normally sign off with.
9.) In an article for parents protection their children from online hoaxes, Joanne Orlando of TheCoversation.com tells readers to ask themselves:
- who is going to benefit from this online post/article?
- what is the underlying purpose of it?
- is the author/creator trying to sway my thinking, and why?