Eight silver bullets against fake news


Under the Propastop Media Literacy section, we are writing tips for developing your text-critical skills. Today we will show our readers the plan published on the IFLA website, which helps asses the reliability of the news using eight simple principles. We have included examples of Propastop postings that illustrate each point. The plan can be downloaded in PDF format and if you wish, you can print it out here.

How to spot fake news?

1.Rate the source

Explore the website or social media account. Think about who is behind the distribution of the news and with what purpose the story was made.

For example, news published in the Russian media for Estonia may not be objective. These Kremlin controlled publications are used as media weapons. You can see the list of Russian channels that put out Propaganda stories here.

2. Read past the headline

The headlines of stories can be scandalous so as to attract clicks and promote sharing. If you dwell into the story, it may turn out that the claims of the headline are not true. For example in the case of the Maarjamäe incident, stories that announced the demolition of the Soviet-era complex attempted to trump each other. The original text of the articles was much closer to the truth.

3.Check out the author

Does the named author really exist? Is he a reliable person? For example, the child soldiers’ incident had a trusted yet naive journalist who with closer inspection turned out to be an individual assisting with biased interests.

4.Do the sources confirm the story?

Often there are no links in the fake news that can be used to verify the facts. If there are references to sources in the story, then click through them. It may become apparent that the original message has been embellished or the meaning distorted. The nuclear power plant incident is an example of such a story, where clicking on links revealed that the claims had no real basis.

5.Control the date

Re-publishing old news does not mean that they are relevant anymore. In the case of the one-dollar warship incident, old outdated fake news was recycled as fresh news.

6.Is this a joke?

If the text is too strange, it may be gossip that was meant to entertain, not telling true facts. For example on April 1, Propastop published a story that besides having a catchy headline had nothing to do with the truth.

7.What is your take on it?

Figure that your own beliefs may influence your judgement. For example if you believe in the earth being flat, you can take fake news from this position as total truth without criticism. Read more about the sound chamber effects or force fed reality from social media algorithms.

8. Ask for advice from experts

Authors of the scheme suggests looking for help from a library if in doubt. For questions about fake news you can ask for help from the regularly action dealing Delfi and Debating club fact controls. You can also let the Propastop anonymous feedback form know about fake news, by email [email protected] or on our Facebook page.

The guide has been prepared by the IFLA, international libraries and an association dealing with organizing information, based on an article published in 2016 by an USA fact controlling website; factcheck.org.

Photo: PJ Nelson / Flickr / CC