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Blog...How to Spot Fake News

How to Spot Fake News

Ecology News
Policy
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In this article, we’ll explain what fake news is, why it’s bad, some examples, and how to spot fake news on your own.
Ecology News
2024-05-28T00:00:00.000Z
en-us
person reading newspaper on bench

The average American spends a whopping 7 hours a day in front of screens, meaning at some point – either something they see on social media or TV is bound to be fake news, especially as digital media has grown to be more saturated than ever before.

Fake news refers to misleading information found on the internet that could convince others to spread this misinformation and even provoke them to act in ways they otherwise wouldn’t.

As a result, fake news can deter us from taking things as seriously as we should or place importance on events that are more trivial than the media may lead us to believe.

In this article, we’ll explain what fake news is, why it’s bad, some examples, and how to spot fake news on your own.

What is fake news?

Fake news refers to stories, blog posts, social media posts, or news broadcasts that are created and spread on the internet – often to be used as a joke or influence others to believe something.

Fake news exasperates the ongoing issue of spreading misinformation and disinformation – both of which can elicit people to act differently than if they knew how to spot fake news and remain well informed.

💡 Remember, misinformation refers to spreading false information whereas disinformation refers to purposefully sharing and promoting incorrect information with others with the intention of swaying the reader or watcher – both of which fake news can perpetuate. 

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Fake news has started as a result of the changing ways in which we receive information. For instance, back in the 1930s – most people got their news from the radio station or a newspaper. Arguably, there were less publishing companies or radio shows to choose from – meaning it was in their best interest to ensure 100% accuracy.

Now a days, it’s harder to make headlines or for your website to rank on google – meaning that many publications will come up with fake news just to get your attention or reap their own selfish benefits. This is why when perusing the internet, you’ll often be spammed with pictures, articles, and videos in your social media feeds trying to sell you a story in attempts to boost their own clicks or advertisement revenue.

👉 Learning how to spot fake news can help to prevent spreading disinformation and improve overall media literacy.

phones with headlines

What is the problem with fake news?

The problem with fake news is that it aids in spreading misinformation and persuading people to change their beliefs based on opinions as opposed to factual information or evidence. 

Fake news can be detrimental not only because it prevents people from collecting accurate information, but it can even affect student grades or your health.

💡 Did you know that up to 75% of adults who read fake news believe that it’s real? This continues to create confusion regarding important topics, such as climate change and political issues. 

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Here are some of the ways that learning how to spot fake news can protect you moving forward:

  • Improve Your Grades – Especially in college, professors will expect you to use reputable sources – meaning that using the false information provided by fake news sources could compromise your grades.
  • Protect Your Health – Several headlines may say that a cure has been found for major diseases, which could lead people to make poor decisions for their health without consulting a medical professional. 
  • Avoid Bias – When we don’t know how to spot fake news, we may become biased to opinions not based on facts. Therefore, learning how to spot fake news can help you to expand your mind and remain receptive to all points of view.

👉 This is why several major news outlets, such as the Guardian, NPR, and Reuters will strive to provide neutral information regarding major political and social events.

typewriter that says, "news"

What are some examples of fake news?

There are numerous examples of fake news, such as with greenwashing, celebrity gossip, and even media outlets discussing the upcoming election in the United States.

It’s important to remember learning how to spot fake news requires more than just being receptive to the information provided by news outlets themselves, but also information spread by businesses or various social media accounts.

A hallmark example of fake news is when Trump suggested to millions of Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic that injecting bleach could help to kill the virus. This “fake news” resulted in criticism and course-correcting articles from health experts across the nation.

Here are some other examples of fake news:

  • Greenwashing – Fake news has a habit of spreading false information, just like greenwashing – as this deceitful marketing tactic illustrates to customers that a company’s products and business practices are more eco-friendly than they truly are.
  • Celebrity Gossip – General celebrity gossip such as TMZ or Perez Hilton may provide pictures as “photographic evidence”, but the sources or stories used for these websites aren’t as reliable as outlets such as People Magazine or Entertainment Tonight – both of which use trusted sources or publicists to confirm information. 
  • Climate Change Skeptics on Social Media – Despite rising global temperatures and melting ice caps in the Arctic, several fossil fuel projects will try their best to undermine the reality and science behind climate change for the sake of profit and potential financial gain.

👉 Learning how to spot fake news is especially important in the midst of climate change, as conspiracy theories spread on the internet could deter meaningful and sustainable practices, such as green living, from being implemented as frequently and effectively.

How can you spot fake news?

Unless you’re a journalist for a living, the majority of people may feel inept on how to spot fake news on an everyday basis – but don’t worry, we’ve rounded up some of our best tips to help you learn how to spot fake news and stay well informed.

Learning how to spot fake news is important as it can not only improve your own media literacy skills, but help to ensure that false information isn’t spread.

Here are some ways on how to spot fake news:

Read the Full Story

These days, our attention spans are so short – sometimes we read headlines or skim through the article and don’t allow ourselves enough time to fully understand the motif or true subject matter of the article. 

💡 Remember, several fake news sources are likely to draw you in with an astonishing headline – but what’s inside the story may be completely different.

Take time to carefully read the entire article before jumping to conclusions.

Is the Story Published Elsewhere?

Odds are, if you can only find one website with a dramatic headline or intriguing report – it’s a sign of fake news.

It’s always a good idea to do a google search to see if other large, reputable media outlets are saying the same thing as the potential fake news source.

pile of newspapers

Verify the Linked Supporting Documents

At Greenly, we make an effort to link numbers, percentages, and other numerical data mentioned in our data stories and blog posts.

This is an important part of learning how to spot fake news, as credible sources will always try their best to provide you with their original source of information to back up their claims. 

Look Up the Author 

Just as supporting documents are essential to ensure an article is based on trustworthy sources, the same goes for the initial author or reporter distributing the news.

Luckily, it’s easy to do a quick google search these days on an author to see if they have published previous work on other reputable sources, if they have relevant degrees in the subject matter, or have other verifiable credentials.

How Old is the Article?

When knee deep in reading, some of us may be too stunned by a catchy headline to see if the article we’re reading has recently been updated.

Even if the author or website hasn’t posted the date when the article was last updated at the top of the web page, you can easily check by scrolling to the bottom of the page or checking in the settings of your web browser. 

man in suit looking at newsboard

Check the URL & Consider the Source

Learning how to spot fake news also means learning to consider the source – meaning that if you’re reading an article that consists of several spelling and grammatical errors, it may mean that the initial source isn’t reputable itself.

One of the easiest ways on how to spot fake news and ensure that the source is reputable is to get your information from an educational institution ending in ‘.edu’ or an official government website ending in ‘.gov’ – as these are usually the resources most media outlets use in the first place.

Before reading an article on a new website, it isn’t a bad idea to take a look around the actual source and determine if it is academically reputable or not.

Overall Article Format, Punctuation & Presentation

Accurate news sources will do their best to present their readers or viewers with a clean and visually appealing web page. 

Fake news, however, will often consist of cluttered web pages with numerous advertisements, disorganized photos, spelling errors, and an arbitrary use of punctuation – or even a lack of punctuation marks altogether.

If an article is represented using proper grammar, spelling, and a clean format – there’s a better chance that it is a reputable source as opposed to fake news.

Learn How to Spot AI & Deep Fakes

AI is a scary place these days, with allowing the average person the newfound capability to create horrifying and false images to spread on the internet – such as the recent deep fakes targeting Taylor Swift.

Deep fakes refer to photos or videos that have been purposefully, digitally altered with the malicious intent to spread fake news or false information.

Learning how to spot fake news doesn’t refer to only clarifying that the text provided is accurate – but that the images are real, too.

Taking the time to zoom in closer to the image to ensure it wasn’t generated by AI or using reverse image search tools can help you learn how to spot fake news.

Overall, learning how to spot fake news is more important than ever as important elections draw near and the climate change crisis requires all of our utmost attention.

💡 In short, growing more aware on how to spot fake news can help to ensure the public is properly informed regarding important news such as political events and climate change.

If we all learn how to spot fake news, we can help prevent the spread of misinformation and allow others to discover the science behind dire matters such as global warming.

What About Greenly?

If reading this article on how to spot fake news, such as false environmental headlines, has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. We offer a free demo for you to better understand our platform and all that it has to offer – including assistance with boosting supplier engagement, personalized assistance, and new ways to involve your employees.

Click here to learn more about Greenly and how we can help you reduce your carbon footprint.

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