Fake news is the latest buzzword, and for a great reason. The internet is plagued with websites that flat out lie or, even worse, substitute facts with speculation. Everyone is entitled to free speech, and this freedom is not the problem, nor is the fake news; the problem is that most people can’t tell the difference between a valid news story and an opinionated heap of words that attempts to be one.
The five tips below will help you figure out fact from fiction and help you separate the fake news from the real deal.
1. Too Many Biased Words
While a statement may not be biased, certain words can take turn a unopinionated statement into a loaded accusation. Certain adjectives can imply that an observation is a widely accepted conclusion, or that someone intended to do something when they did not.
Sounds complicated, but let’s look at an example.
If you are a little overweight, as many of us are, and your doctor tells you you’re overweight it’s a factual statement. If your doctor says you’re clearly overweight, it implies that your little pudge is a dominating physical characteristic, and quickly becomes an insult.
See the difference?
One sentence is loaded with the suggestion that something is clear for everyone to see, while the other is just a statement. This is one dangerous way many fake news sites are presenting personal perspectives as universal realities when they aren’t.
2. No Sources are Mentioned
A big red flag is if you read an article online and there are no sources. You should be able to clearly see where the author got their information from, whether they acquired it directly from the source or through another channel.
This doesn’t apply to just news stories, nowadays before you visit a restaurant you check online for reviews. If other people recommend it or have had positive experiences, it is likely that the restaurant’s service is as good as they claim it is. For example, while Luxor in Vegas boasts high-end services, the rooms have been reported to need renovating. The only difference between that example and news is that an article advertises an idea instead of a product, which can just as often become unimpressive once you get the full picture.
Excluding opinion pieces that are clearly marked by the title or in-text, if an article is trying to sell itself as a news story and it doesn’t mention where or how the information its giving you was acquired, chances are that it is an opinion disguised as fact.
3. The Writing Is Legit – But the Facts Don’t Check Out
If you’re on a proclaimed news site and it seems legitimate and the writing style is unbiased, there is one more important thing to check; if the statements made are true.
The easiest way to check, aside from visiting fact-checking websites like Snopes, is to see if any other news sources have been publishing the same information. Type in a questionable looking fact in Google and check where else it’s been published. If you can’t find it anywhere, it’s very like that it’s not true.
On the other hand, just because something is widely believed doesn’t mean it’s true, so make sure to stay critical when reading anything you see online.