It’s getting difficult to figure out who to believe. When US President Obama blames Facebook for the proliferation of fake news online, it’s cause for concern. How do you know that the things you’re reading are true, and not just propaganda?
The unfortunate news is that there isn’t a simple way to know. Avoiding fake news is complicated, and depends a lot upon your smarts. But just like technology is responsible for the spread of lies, technology also has ways to stop them.
From extensions that flag notorious fake news outlets to websites that bust hoaxes and myths, here are the five resources you need.
1. Melissa Zimdar’s Tips (Web) and Fake News Alert (Chrome): How to Spot Fake News
The first step to not falling for fake news is to be more skeptical. How do you do that? Melissa Zimdar, an assistant professor of communication and media, has some pointers in a Google Doc she shared.
Zimdar started compiling a list of outlets whose “news” you shouldn’t believe, but for the time being, has stopped that exercise. However, the Google Doc remains active with tips to easily spot falsehoods.
Some of it is common sense, like the tips to avoid fake jobs and scams on the internet. Some is more specific, like distrusting sites that end with “.com.co” domains, or the use of capitalized words. Those aren’t things that a legitimate news organization would use, according to Zimdar.
There’s some good news as well. Zimdar plans to re-upload her database of fake news outlets, and posts updates about that plan in the Google Doc.
A journalist took Zimdar’s list of illegitimate news sites and turned it into a handy Google Chrome extension. Download Fake News Alert to get a notification every time your Facebook wall is citing an unreliable source. But remember, these are only from Zimdar’s list, so the extension’s reach is limited.
2. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter (Web): Verify U.S. Politics News
In the age of social media, a politician’s words need to be carefully weighed. Yet some political parties and representatives blurt out half-truths or lies. PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter is the best place to check whether a statement is true or false.
The Truth-O-Meter has different levels, from “True” to “Pants on Fire”, which represents something that is widely read but completely false. Helpfully, PolitiFact also points out when the statement was made, and cites the sources used to say whether it’s true or false.
PolitiFact is generally a good website to follow regularly, so you stay up-to-date about half-truths being peddled by political forces. While you’ll be entertained by fake politicians and world leaders on Twitter, you should follow @PolitiFact for the real news.
3. Snopes (Web): Everyone’s Favorite Hoax-Buster
One of the original hoax-busting and fact-checking websites on the internet, Snopes is widely recognized as a reliable source of information on the internet. So if you’re unsure about something you read online, check it out on Snopes.
Snopes specializes in debunking rumors that spread online like wildfire. Viral photos and news have a tendency to be shared widely regardless of how true they are. You need to specifically be concerned with the “Fact Check” section, but Snopes also works as a reliable source of news.
In case you want to have a rumor checked, Snopes lets you submit such items. Just add the link where you saw it, and as long as many people are clicking on it, Snopes will try to verify or debunk it.
4. Truth or Fiction (Web): Constantly Updated With Latest Rumors
Truth Or Fiction has been around since 1998, making it one of the oldest sites on the internet to debunk rumors. It has got the whole ordeal down to a science.
Visit the site and you’ll see a chronological list of the latest rumors floating around on the internet. Scroll down and you’ll see the most-asked rumors in the recent past, so you know which questions are plaguing people’s minds the most.
Truth Or Fiction focuses on email scams and social media mistruths. That makes this is a good place to check the truth behind your friend’s Facebook wall post or verify urban legends and scams.
5. FiB (Chrome): Smart Extension to Analyze News
Verifying any news requires lot of cross-checking and reverse-lookups. You may not always have the time or inclination to do that. Can artificial intelligence (AI) do the due diligence and help you avoid falling for lies?
FiB thinks it can. This Chrome extension has a backend AI that checks the facts within any post on Facebook. It verifies such posts using image recognition, keyword extraction, and source verification. It also runs a Twitter search to verify if a screenshot of a Twitter update posted is authentic.
If a post is legitimate, you’ll see a “Verified” tag on the top-right corner. It’s an astounding way to see amazing artificial intelligence in action.
Download — FiB for Google Chrome (Chrome Web Store)
Which News Sites Do You Trust?
We know that there are plenty of lies floating around on the internet, so instead of sifting through all those to find the truth, let’s give more power to truth-tellers.
Which news outlets do you trust to always give you the true or fair reportage?