Fake news usually works by triggering a reader’s deepest fears.
- The fear of migrants collapsing our economy;
- the fear of foreigners raping and assaulting the women and children in the countries where they find hospitality after leaving their homeland;
- a scandalous revelation that just now came to light about a political leader or figure previously known for their moral stances;
- honestly, anything about taxes;
- any kind of coverups.
Here’s how to tell, 98% of the times, that what you’re reading is absolutely meritless. For the sake of simplicity, we’re not going to consider a scenario where you, the reader, are sharing such stories with a malicious intent. We’re only going to consider an “unaware sharer”, so to say.
- Usually, just the title is a dead giveaway that you’re reading something that has no value whatsoever: the headlines are outrageous and state something that is impossible to prove or for which no evidence is offered.
- Go beyond the headlines themselves and look for a byline: is the author a reliable professional? Are they known for other pieces as dubious? Are they on social media at all? Do they, in other words, really exist? Finding out is easy, and should help you understand.
Is the site or the newspaper hosting the article a reputable source? We explained just how to spot one in another section of this very website.
- Could your own fears and beliefs play a part in convincing you that you are reading something true? Most times we want desperately to believe something we read because our conscience is assuaged this way and, unconsciously, having in common some of our opinion with a news outlet, no matter how small, makes us feel less lonely in our opinions and assumptions. It’s like Don Quixote finding a fellow knight to fight with, if you will!
- Are there sources that support what you’re reading? Can you click on links in the article? Are they included in what you’re reading? Once you do click, where does the navigation take you? To more dubious websites? To actual news sources everybody knows (the CNN, The Guardian, The New York Times, the BBC…), or do you end running in virtual circles staying on the same site again and again, no matter what you click on? Even worse, do the links that you click on take you to malicious webpages, or to websites you’ve never heard before?
All of the above should make you question what you’re reading. If you did all of your “conscious reader homework” and still decide to go on and believe a debatable story, or even worse share it, then you’re part of the problem and you’re doing nothing to contribute to eliminating false information: consider this, if anything, before clicking on that “Share” button!