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Don't fall for fake news - how to identify untrustworthy stories online



With so many stories going viral, how can you tell what's real and what isn't? Is it a trustworthy article, or is it alternative facts? No need to fret; we've rounded up all the ways you can tell if a story is true or not, so that you don't fall for fake news online.

Check the reputation of the person who's sharing it
We've all got people on our friends list that have no reason to be there, and some of those people are going to believe some weird things. This might be a given, but if the person sharing an article has previously discussed whether our society is actually made of lizard people, that's a red flag. In all seriousness, if you don't know the person who's sharing the content, check their reputation before you retweet. 

Does the post link to a source, or is it just an image?
If all the information is on an aesthetically pleasing, easily shareable image, that's a red flag. Fake news travels fast when its easily shareable, and looks good on your wall. But you should be able to find the source to the information pretty easily; try the description and check out the link. If there's no source there, and you can't find where it's come from, you're probably reading some alternative facts.

Go beyond the headline
If it does link to a news article, great - but give the whole article a read to see if it stands up to scrutiny. A lot of fake news will use provocative headlines to get as many likes and shares as possible, but the main body of the article may be hogwash. If it does read coherently, and not like a rant from a drunk Uncle on Christmas Day, then give the statements a quick google. You should be able to back it up with another news site - there should be more than one organisation reporting on a subject.

Does the source look legit? 
This is a really easy way to check whether the article you're considering is fake news. Take a good look at the site you've landed on. You might be able to tell straight away that it's dodgy - or your browser security settings might tell you - but even if it looks like a news site, be sceptical. Is it a website you recognise? Google the website, and check to see if it has a Wikipedia page. Also, check out the 'contact us' section of the website - be wary if it only lists an email address.

What's the date? 
Fake news is sometimes just real news recycled, so make sure you check the date. Although the publication date on an article may be recent, as mentioned before, you should be able to find different reports of the same story across multiple news sites. If the article you've seen looks current enough, but everyone else was talking about this in 2012, it's probably a recycled story published again by someone with an agenda. 

Does it look like satire? 
Some satirical news sites, likes theonion.com, are very open about the fact that they're peddling fake news - but there will still be people sharing stories as if they're factual. You should be able to tell if something is satire by the tone of the article, or the quotes that they've used; but if you're on the fence about something, give it a Google or check their other articles. If a second headline reads, 'Trump Boys Announce They Will Not Hesitate To Egg Russia If Provoked', the first is probably satire too.

Check it with snopes.com
If you're still struggling, check it with snopes.com or FactCheck.org. Both websites investigate viral news, so if its doing the rounds on Facebook or Twitter these folks have probably already covered it. They both do great breakdowns of fake news, and can often tell you where the news originated (spoiler; its usually reddit).

For more awesome, fact-checked news check out our blog. Or tweet us @TranscenditUK


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