Recent news has shown that Americans have serious difficulty distinguishing between real news and fake news. First, the Russian company Internet Research Agency was indicted for disseminating false information on social media platforms to sway the election in favor of Donald Trump. Then came the scandal involving Facebook and the British information firm Cambridge Analytica, which was used by the Trump campaign to target unwitting Facebook users.
Millions of seemingly-intelligent people have unknowingly spread political misinformation, half-baked ideas and outright lies through social media. It seems as if no socioeconomic class, education level, religion, gender or ideology is immune from believing–and spreading–fake news. Fortunately, there are a few steps that you can take to help prevent ignorance from spreading.
Check the source
When you read the information on the internet, actively question whether it is authentic or fake. The easiest way to do this is to look for a source link. If the information comes from a disreputable source like a partisan news outlet, a private blog, or some random Joe, it is almost certainly fake, or at least unconfirmed. Accurate news will come from a nonpartisan news outlet, a reputable blog or a professional reporter.
Make sure it’s worth sharing
It is all too easy to share content on social media. Simply click a button, and it has been spread to dozens of people. But before you hit the “share” button, pause and ask yourself whether you should share it. Is it accurate? Will it contribute to your online discourse? Is the information relevant to other people?
Beware confirmation bias
One of the perils of social media algorithms is that they are able to target users based on their interests and beliefs. This means that our newsfeeds are likely to show us information that appeals to us–even if it is not necessarily true. News is not always pleasant, and it does not always conform to our personal worldview. If you find that a piece of news aligns perfectly with your views or seems too good to be true, double-check its authenticity.