The internet has become the world’s most important resource for news. It has overtaken press groups and stock libraries to become the go-to destination for anyone wishing to know anything. Seconds after a world changing event, tweeted pictures and live streams bounce around the globe at the speed of fibre optic and nothing and no one is sacred.

Information Utopia at last?  …if only

The problem with this sudden availability of info is that it doesn’t serve those who seek to control the flow of news and those who have this power have a hidden ace… namely us.

The media only needs to let us poison our well and the sudden powerful access we currently share will be worthless… in short, we need to stop sharing crap.

I am writing this article because of the sheer volume of spin, nonsense and disinformation I have come across on the internet recently and we really need to sort out how we are using our new super power.

So how do you spot a fake news story?

The answer is surprisingly simple and here are some tips to prevent the flow of crud.

1. Google it – Yep crazy as it sounds typing the baby eating story into Google is often enough to separate the fact from the fiction. For deeper analysis use Snopes and hoaxslayer too.

2. Check the date – This year I’ve seen pictures from the 1960’s Woodstock festival masquerading as peaceful pipeline protests in Aug 2016 and four-year-old war reports from Syria pretending to be tales from the front line. Human beings have been around for a long time and if you look hard enough you can find an image or a headline to fit pretty much any idea.

3. The devil is in the details – Beware of sensational headlines with vague details. If atrocities occur at least allow the victims to be remembered. Don’t fall for ‘a man from a village was eaten by ISIS.’ People like Donald Trump need people to be scared of ISIS and by spreading these awful tales you are only helping him and others like him. When terrible things happen records will exist. Name, age and location or it probably didn’t happen.

4. Check the source – This can be tricky for a number of reasons.  For one it’s very easy for anyone to own a domain name and put up a slick looking news site and secondly, the state of the UK press means they are capable of just about anything. As a rule, crossreference the story. It’s unlikely that everyone bought it, so even if the BBC was daft enough to share it, Channel four or Reuters might have had some reservation.

5. Use your commonsense – We all have a built in bulls*it detector. If something is worrying you about a story, go with your gut and apply tips 1-4 until you discover the truth.

That’s it, go tell the world… the truth

*pic above creative commons

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