Here's How You Can Determine if the Article You're About to Read or Share Isn't Fake News
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Here's How You Can Determine if the Article You're About to Read or Share Isn't Fake News

It's much easier to spot fake news stories designed to manipulate readers when you know some of the signs of deception

June 29, 2020

Fake news isn't new. It's been around for centuries. It wasn't until technological advances, such as viral emails and social media, that fake news became a real problem. Fake news can spread very quickly and influence people in ways that weren't possible before. Whether it's completely fake or only using misleading headlines, know what to look for to be able to spot fake news before you share it.

Check the URL in the web browser.

Before even digging into the article, check the web browser and look for the domain name. Most website domain names are .com, .gov, or similar. But if the domain name looks weird, then you should exit the site. While the site may be legit, is not the same. Many fake news and other websites designed to scam you will try to mimic another site by using a .co domain and then designing their URLs to look familiar. Website domains that end with .gov, .edu, .mil, and .org are typically more credible than websites that end in .com, or .net.

"You won't believe" are the first words in the headline.

Whenever a headline claims "you won't believe" or contains words such as "shocking," the writer is employing a technique known as "clickbait." The intention is to make the reader so curious that he or she will open and read the article. The story does not need much substantial content in itself. The headline has done its job if the reader opens the story, as the site publishing the story gets advertising revenue when the link is clicked.

The story confirms one of the cherished beliefs or fears of the reader.

It is not difficult for Online algorithms to figure out your political identity. In order to get as many clicks as possible, fake news purveyors show each reader stories about outrages supposedly committed by a well-known member of the opposing political party. Scary fake news is also effective when it comes to racking up clicks. If you see a headline about someone predicting the end of the world, it is more than a little likely that the claims will not hold up to scrutiny.

Move beyond the headline.

Headlines are designed to catch your attention. But before you decide to share an article with others, read a little into the article to make sure the information matches the headline. The headline won't tell the entire story, even in legitimate news articles. Fake news and spoof articles, however, may start with content that sounds reasonable but then transition into sales content.

A celebrity or famous politician is the subject.

Fake news writers often capitalize on our curiosity by writing about celebrities and politicians. There have been instances of headlines that purposely mislead readers by suggesting that one or another well-known public figure has died when, in reality, the person is alive and well.

No credible sources are cited.

This may be the biggest red flag of them all. Legitimate news stories are always based on information provided by one or more credible sources. The article should quote a person who has some amount of authority stating that something is or is not true and also offer a fact to back up the claim. In contrast, fake news frequently does not cite sources; instead, it simply states an opinion. In addition, it is often being reported by only one outlet, a sign that the story has been fabricated solely for the purpose of getting clicks.

Check the date.

Sometimes news articles are posted and sound like they're happening now. But a closer look shows that the article is a few years old. These types of articles are popular around election time in order to get you thinking that a particular candidate is doing something now when in fact the candidate had done it years ago.

One of your friends or family members emailed the story to you.

One way fake news stories go viral is through an email chain from someone you know with a link to a story that "you've got to read." Most of the time, the sender has been taken in by the story because it seems to confirm something they already believe to be true.