If you’re going to share posts on social media platforms, you should always fact check the source. (7 minute read)
In the era of “Fake News,” a ridiculous amount of spam now floats around social media. Fake News is often thought of as being created by the mainstream media, but in reality, social media is one of the predominant aggregators of misinformation shared. For instance, there are a lot of vulnerable social media users that tend to believe every.single.thing they read and then share the post (usually a poorly photoshopped image) for the whole world (in their network) to see. More than likely, another vulnerable user in the sharer’s network has now been spoon fed non-factual information and will then also believe the “Fake News.”
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre found 64% of American adults said Fake News stories were causing confusion about basic facts on current issues and events. However, as mentioned above, the poorly photoshopped images and sheer number of fake memes and posts makes it virtually impossible to fact check each one.
PLEASE NOTE: Meme (mēm) – noun: A ‘meme’ is a virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea. The majority of modern memes are captioned photos that are intended to be funny, often as a way to publicly ridicule human behavior. Other memes can be videos and verbal expressions. Some memes have heavier and more philosophical content.
So, the question remains…
How do we stop the sharing of non-factual posts and positively contribute to our social media community?
There are plenty of sites available working to bust fake news including www.snopes.com, but users have to know how to identify Fake News for themselves. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have implemented algorithm changes, policies, and new systems to help catch these fake posts, but it isn’t a perfect system. Here are four ways you can be a responsible social media user and share fact-checked information from verified sources:
1. Pay Attention to the Link Size
Rather than calling attention to Fake News, Facebook decided to make the non-factual articles shared less noticeable by reducing the size of the link.
When a user shares an article to Facebook with a link to an outside source, Facebook has third-party fact-checkers verify the article’s accuracy. If the article is deemed inaccurate, Facebook will shrink the size of the link post in the News Feed. “We reduce the visual prominence of feed stories that are fact-checked false,” a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to me.
Articles that are confirmed-to-be-false news stories on mobile show up with their headline and image rolled into a single smaller row of space. Then, Facebook will display “Related Articles” from verified news sources with “Fact-Checker”-labeled articles debunking the original link. If an article is deemed factual, the article’s image appears about 10 times larger, and its headline gets its own space.
2. Use Facebook’s Link Verification
A few months ago, Facebook added this nifty feature (that I’ve sure not many people have noticed unless you’re a social media junkie like me) that includes an “i” or information bubble with a link posted from a trusted and verified domain.
In order for the domain to be verified, they have to have a Facebook page and go through Facebook’s verification process, which requires a business/organization to verify a phone number, web address, email, etc. to ensure that the user is real and not a fake account.
If the information bubble is clicked, a pop-up box will appear with information about that link, other news/posts from that source, and where and how many people have shared the link. This provides valuable information to a responsible social media user when trying to determine whether or not a news source is legit or not.
However, like with most things when it comes to technology, this isn’t ALWAYS accurate. Sometimes, you have to do a slightly deeper dive. If you look at the three posts below:
- Post #1 was shared by a Facebook connection who saw the post, shared it, and told everyone that the baby pictures and the claim made with the post could have been her premature niece. If you fact check this post thought, you will find that it’s false… but that didn’t stop her from sharing it. FACT CHECK HERE
- If you click on the actual account that shared the post, you will see that they only have around 200,000 people. An actual trusted and verified news source would have quite a bit more followers than that… probably close to the 15,000,000+ followers range. Further more, if you read the post on August 28, 2018 at 5:30 PM you will see that Facebook shut down their page for being unable to pass their security requirements, which further proves that none of their content held validity.
- You can also look at the account’s other posts and see that much of their content does not contain the information bubble mentioned in Tip #1, which would appear if the post course was a trusted and verified source.
Although Facebook has removed this one specific page’s ability to share future information, it doesn’t’ prevent old information from getting circulated and continuing to spread Fake News.
But, for the most part, the link verification does work and is a pretty good indicator of a source being trusted. This tip should be used in conjunction with the other tips provided in this article to ensure the highest level of verification and accuracy.
Pictured below are three different posts with the verified information bubble present that also includes addition information about the organization:
3. Pay Attention to the Displayed URL
Another way you can determine the validation or trust level of a post is to look at the displayed link attached to the post. If you think the source of the article is CBS News, one would think it’s pretty accurate, right? However, not many would catch that the URL is cbsnews.us (rather than their official website of .com).
According to Snopes.com, the domain shown under the headline, cbsnews.us, came from a website called the “Fake News Generator.”
That web site allows users to enter their own headline, description of their article, a stock image, and a fake URL which adds, at first glance, the appearance of authenticity. Fake URLs to look out for include cbsnews.us, hannity.com, thenewyorktimes.company, and theasociatedpress.com.
Word to the wise: if the URL isn’t a .com or .org, often times, it’s not a legit source of information.
4. Google It
If you take the image shared above stating that “University of Alabama Drops Uniform Contract with Nike,” and type the phrase into Google, you will notice that nothing about the University of Alabama dropping Nike appears. The only articles that appear are articles talking about former Alabama Commit Colin Kaepernick and him becoming the face of Nike’s new marketing campaign. In fact, this image when viral so quick that Snopes.com quickly debunked it stating:
“The prospect of the University of Alabama, one of the most prominent and successful college football programs in the United States, severing ties with Nike would be a significant development in the ongoing saga surrounding protests over racial injustice. Within one day, the headline was shared 35,000 times on Facebook, and the rumor began appearing on Twitter as well. The many earnest comments under the “Alabama Department of Memes” post showed that some readers clearly believed the story to be true.
However, the “news” was entirely false. The University of Alabama made no such announcement in the days following Nike’s unveiling of their deal with Kaepernick.
Indeed, two hours after posting the fake headline, “Alabama Department of Memes” added the following clarification: “Disclaimer: This is fake.” Furthermore, the domain shown under the headline, cbsnews.us, came from a website called the “Fake News Generator.”
That web site allows users to enter their own headline, description of their article, a stock image, and a fake URL which adds, at first glance, the appearance of authenticity. Fake URLs to look out for include cbsnews.us, hannity.com, thenewyorktimes.company, and theasociatedpress.com.”
Being an industry social media professional, it REALLY hurts my soul to see many of my “friends” share misinformation. So, after seeing one too many spammy posts being shared, I decided that it was up to me to share with my network how to spot “Fake News” and how to share on social media responsibly and contribute to the social media community in a positive way.
Regardless of your political views and hatred of one party or the other (or of just politics in general), the next time you see a post that makes you think to yourself, “Oh yeah! This is a great post about how terrible Trump is. This will REALLY show all of those conservatives what a terrible President he is!!!” (or vica versa) Stop. Look at the source, make sure it’s verified, then Google the claim to see if two or three other sources (like Snopes) have shared the same story. Odds are, if you can find the story multiple times on Google, there’s factual basis. However, if the link isn’t verified on Facebook and Google can’t find any other new source with the same story… you shouldn’t share the post as it is “Fake News.”
Ultimately, it is up to you as the user to spend the time to fact check information before sharing something that could be inaccurate. Until technology can catch up with this problem, it is the responsibility of the platforms and the users to remain responsible and to share content that is legitimate and factual.
Do you have other ways to spot Fake News (and don’t say Fox News, CNN, etc.)? If so, I would love to know I can share with my network.
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