The Return of Yellow Journalism: How To Fact Check Fake News

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The rise of fake news is on everyone’s minds ever since the US election. After falsified stories leaked all over social media feeds, there’s concern that it could have swayed the election results. While the fingers are still being pointed, it’s important that you have the right tools in order to separate fact from fiction.

A New Era in Yellow Journalism

The fake news trend isn’t anything new; parallels can be drawn to the days of yellow journalism when print publications opted in for flashy headlines, lavish pictures and exaggerated content in favor of well-researched columns. While sensationalized media is widely vilified by journalists, the question of ethics in media keeps resurfacing as the flow of fabricated stories continues to become an issue.

In this new age of yellow journalism, the media landscape shifted from the morning newspaper to instantaneous social media posts where the majority gets their news. Bloggers aren’t held to the same standard that journalists are but they are often the first point of contact for many seeking breaking news. Without the expectation to have journalistic integrity bloggers are free to publish any biased or under researched media that will escalate on social network platforms.

So, how do you separate truth from fiction?

The short answer: dig much deeper.

Even Wikipedia isn’t foolproof; it’s an open source encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone. Use due diligence and follow these helpful tips to navigate the fake news minefield.

Check The Domain Name

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The first step in determining a fake news story is as simple as checking the link of where the article is from. There are more than a handful of faux websites out for your clicks. They can be blatantly obvious such as unconfirmedsources.com but they can also have less discerning names such as civictribune.com.

Always refer to reputable publications to see if that story has run. Globe & Mail, Wall Street Journal and Forbes are examples of credible news sources you can confide in. Don’t be fooled, however, there are some fake news sites that highjack popular outlets and slightly change the name.

MSNBC.com is a trusted news source, yet MSNBC.co has been flagged as a fake news site. That slight difference is easy to miss at a quick glance, which is exactly what they set out to achieve.

Use Fact Checking Websites

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Luckily, there are websites who showed initiative and created resources to use when a questionable political story surfaces. The first one can be found at factcheck.org. Any reported articles will end up here, there’s even a section to ask a question regarding a story and they will post the answer. The second source measures the accuracy of a post with a Truth-O-Meter that will tell you the extent of how true a story is. At politifact.com there’s a database of debunked political articles and the Obameter, which is a tally of the promises he kept or broke. Politifact won the Pulitzer Prize for its contribution in the battle against misinformation.

Google Has a Reverse Image Search

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Sometimes a story will emerge followed by a photo that gives claim to the information. That doesn’t mean it’s true. Photoshop is an incredibly powerful tool for those who know how to use it. Many photos have been altered to suit a narrative then pushed out into social media where it gets shared and lost in the static.

The solution here is simple. These three simple steps will allow you to verify the credibility of a photo in question:

  • Screenshot the photo
  • Open Google Images in your browser
  • Drag the screenshot into the search field

Google will perform a reverse image search and present the URL’s associated with the picture. From here you can see where the image came from and if it originates from a reputable source.

Download The “FiB” Chrome Browser Extension

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When a team of four bright students came together at HackPrinceton, they set out to create an algorithm to combat fake news. Not only did they successfully create the Google Chrome extension called “FiB” but also it only took 36 hours to complete it.

But how does it work?

FiB has a two-pronged approach; first it scans through your Facebook feed and checks status updates, photos and links, and then follows with a Twitter search. Based off the information it assesses whether the content was fabricated or not.

Second, for anyone posting news it does the same verification process but will notify before posting if it’s “Verified” or “Not Verified”. The user can then decide if they want to continue the post.

If there’s one take away from all this, it’s that you need to be objective about everything you read online. The US election set a dangerous precedent setting up a post-truth era but the silver lining here is you have the power to end it by questioning and sharing correct information.

Cale Boudreau