Allcott and Gentzkow’ (2017) define “fake news” as “news articles that are intentionally and verifiably false and could mislead readers. Fake news has been around since the beginnings of human culture, but with the emergence of social media, this phenomenon is gaining more traction on international and national scales. Lebanon is currently witnessing a wave of misinformation pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, which risks overshadowing reputable sources of information. To help readers navigate the social media landscape and minimize the risk of misinformation, here are six tips to detect fake news:
1. Assess the quality of the writing standards: Poor writing styles are usually reflected in grammar mistakes and typos or odd punctuation.
2. Evaluate the correctness of the story: In some cases, the info is not fabricated but old or used in a different context.
3. Look carefully at the website’s name: In cases of disinformation, fake news websites will often make their domain names look similar to established media such as cmn.com instead of cnn.com or manar.co instead of manar.com etc.
a. If you want to dig a little deeper, look into the potential agenda of any publisher by reading more about them such as with their mission statement and identity.
4. Examine the author’s credibility: The writer should be an authority in the field to provide the audience with unbiased and correct information.
5. Cross check the information with: In doubtful situations, it is important to find the same data/facts/news on other websites or official platforms. If a news site cannot provide these, or the facts do not line up with more established media, it is more likely to be misinformation.
6. Refer to a fact checking website such as FactCheck.org or BBC fact checker: The aim of such websites is to increase the level of media literacy among people and to decrease the level of disinformation and misinformation resulting from fake news.
Dr. Maria Bou Zeid is an Associate Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Media Studies, Faculty of Humanities at Notre Dame University, and Executive Director of the Arab Studies Institute (ASI) – Beirut Office.
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