How can we identify and stop the spread of fake news in the digital space?

By Nekesa Omutecho

Credible journalism is fed by fact-gathering. So, a lack of research likely means a lack of fact-
based information and thus resulting in misinformation.

Fake news reporting has become common these days with so many actual stories being shared
all over especially on social media platforms. This is as a result of unsubstantiated stories being
published and readers sharing them without cross-checking the facts.

The best way to always be able to distinguish between fake news from real substantial ones is
to develop checklist criteria. These four ways will be a better guide in helping you do so:

1. Check the source

If you come across a story from a source that you have never heard before, or you aren’t
familiar with then take up the task of doing some digging. In most cases, if it's a fake story you
will realize that the web address will be incorrect, or almost similar to the intended one. This
then means the source is suspect, whether or not the source is familiar to you.
Remember. even if you got the story from your best friend or someone you believe in,it gives
no extra-authority – they most probably didn’t check the source themselves before
forwarding!!
One should always be aware that people who spread fake news and “alternative facts”
sometimes create web pages, newspaper mocks or “doctored” images that look official when in
reality they aren’t.

2. Develop a critical mindset

One of the main reasons fake news is such a big issue is that it is often believable, and so it’s
easy to get caught out. Most fake news is also written to create “shock” that is a strong
instinctive reaction like fear or anger amongst readers, and that’s the reason why it goes viral
so fast. This means that it is essential that one keeps their emotional response to such stories in
check. Instead, approach what you see and hear rationally and critically.
Ask yourself, “Why has this story been written? Is it to persuade me of a certain viewpoint? Or
is it trying to get me to click through to another website? Am I being triggered?” Once you can
be able to look at the story from a different perspective, then you may be able to notice some
missing dots and stop forwarding what could be a fake story.

3. See who else is reporting the story

When a big news event happens, multiple media organizations will report it. Search for other
publications that have posted stories about the event or topic. If no other news outlets are
reporting the story, be skeptical about the accuracy of the article or video. Maybe, just maybe,
it’s not true.
Always be keen to find out if anyone else has picked up on the story. What do other sources say
about it? Chances are if the majority of other news sites are reporting about the same story,
it’s at least partially true. Read multiple stories on the same subject to see what sources are
being used and where the differences lie.

4. Pay attention to quality and timeliness

Always be keen to check any spelling mistakes as well as misplaced punctuation marks!!??! If
you notice anything that will raise your eyebrows, then most probably there is something fishy
about the credibility of the story. Also, beware of sloppy writing. Reputable sources have high
proofreading and grammatical standards. Like this one!!!