How to Quickly Avoid Fake News During an Unfolding Crisis

The Internet is a double-edged sword when it comes to breaking news 4 Easy Ways To Keep Up With Breaking News Online In today's world of fast-paced breaking news, it can often times be difficult to keep up with everything that's going on. If you want a targeted experience — one that includes smartphone alerts from your... Read More .

On one hand, we know what’s going on halfway around the world in minutes, but this comes with the cost of typically inaccurate information when things do happen. Throw in the open-ended nature of social media sites 6 Positive Effects Social Media Sites Have on Society There are good things about social networking. Here's our exploration of the positive effects of social media and why it's good. Read More where anyone can make a claim, and often false news spreads around the world ahead of the truth.

It’s easy to get caught up in the fake hype when a crisis happens. It’s easy to fall prey to misinformation. It’s easy to be misled. Unfortunately, outrageous news are regular events now.

The next time there’s a news event that whips you into a frenzy, take a step back and remember these tips.

News Outlets Don’t Know Enough

Whenever a breaking bit of news develops three things might happen.

  • Every major news website will have a banner across their home page with the words “BREAKING”.
  • Everyone will tweet the news starting with “BREAKING”.
  • And, news websites will want you to come to their site to find out what’s happening.

The problem with this? In all likelihood, they probably don’t know what’s going on.

Think about it: if there’s a shooting situation in Arizona that’s still developing, how would news outlets in New York know enough to reliably communicate it to you? Hopefully, sites will be decent and feature a brief post on the situation, letting you know that they’ll add more info as it happens. Some, however, might try to make up details or fill the post up with rumors.

Don’t believe them.


In a similar vein, Wikipedia will add a disclaimer on pages that are affected by a current event, letting you know that its information may change rapidly How To Track Wikipedia Edits In Real Time And Catch What's Trending Wikipedia is run by a vast army of volunteers. They add, update, and also delete. These can range from keying in the latest information and even covering up scandalous news. The changes often looks like... Read More and asking users not to add information that isn’t confirmed.

Do not take any news stories at face value. News companies want you to visit their pages, and they’d rather put out some speculations than leave you wondering and risk losing you to a competitor.

Give local news its due. It’s best to check for news outlets that are near the issue, so check the websites of local news TV stations or newspapers before you go to CNN or other national news.

There is a general rule — there is almost never a second shooter.

Compare Multiple Sources

Continuing off the last point, it’s really easy for one reporter or network to get information wrong. You’re better off making sure that several outlets are confirming the same story, but this too comes with a caveat.

Watch out for breaking news that cites another news story as its source. If you followed these, you could discover a daisy-chain of citations that all leads back to one news outlet who had no idea what they were talking about. As the story develops, you can compare new details that one source adds to others and see if they seem to be legitimate The 8 Best Fact-Checking Sites for Finding Unbiased Truth This is the age of misinformation and fake news. Here are the best unbiased fact-checking sites so that you can find the truth. Read More .

You should also be careful of the language that news posts use, and how they compare to each other.

When a reporter says “We are getting reports,” it could be totally off-base. If they “are seeking confirmation,” they don’t have it, and you shouldn’t get caught up in what they’re saying. When they say that they “have learned” or “have heard” new information, they could have heard from an unreliable source or be making a far-fetched connection.

If you ever see an anonymous source, don’t pay it any mind. If someone is knowingly fabricating details in a major story, they could get into serious trouble if the falsehood was traced back to them, which leads us to…

Watch Out for Faking

The hype of breaking news brings out people who want to capitalize on the situation and get their fifteen minutes of fame. With Photoshop and other editing tools 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Photoshop Skills There are lots of easy ways you can improve your Photoshop skills. Here's a closer look at five simple tips. Read More , it’s not hard to make a convincing fake image, and news outlets hungry for a story could gobble it up without checking its authenticity.

This doesn’t just apply to breaking news, either — the controller for Nintendo’s upcoming NX console How the Wii U's Failures Can Make Nintendo's NX a Success Nintendo's next console, codenamed the NX, is going to be huge. Potentially. But every company has stumbles. If Nintendo has another one, could it be The End? Read More was supposedly leaked via some internal photos, but they turned out to be fakes designed to trick people. In this case, people are excited for the announcement of the new console, so they’ll jump on anything that seems to be legitimate. This is even more typical with crisis news.

It’s not always negative, though; there are plenty of times the Internet has been a force for good DancingMan, And 4 More Times The Internet Was a Positive Force The Internet can be a mean place, full of trolls and scamsters. But just like real life, for all the bad, there's a lot of good out there. Read More , too.

Beware Social Media, and Watch Yourself

Social media has made it easier for the fakers discussed above to get their nonsense distributed. With hashtags and direct lines to news outlets on the likes of Facebook and Twitter, someone can jump on a hot hashtag #Clueless? Everything You Need To Know About Twitter Hashtags Some people #use #them #for #every #freaking #word; others ignore them altogether. It might leave you wondering: what are hashtags even for? Am I using Twitter wrong if I don't use them? And are people... Read More and get their false images, videos, or stories in front of millions of people with just a few clicks.

The problem with social media and breaking news How to Get Your Recommended Daily Dose of News via Social Media What if we only got news from social media? What would we miss? How effective is relying on retweets and such to spread the word? And which feeds are best for the all-important headlines? Read More is that people want instant updates on what’s happening, so they’ll latch onto any bits of new info they see. Since retweeting on Twitter is so easy to do, a normal person could tweet a speculation on the issue as fact and have it soar to thousands of retweets, further spreading false info. People blindly retweeting anything they see leads to the spread of myths that just won’t die 4 Common Myths You'll Be Surprised to Know Are False Throughout human history, rumors and stories started and spread like wildfire. The Internet has only magnified this strange phenomenon. Read More , among other problems.

Be careful that you don’t fall for viral falsehoods. It’s easy to see something on a breaking issue and think that you should share it so everyone gets the update, but it’s wise to think first. Don’t retweet anything you see related to the situation — use the above tips to see if it’s legitimate first before contributing to the problem.

How to Combat Fake News

Reading all this, you might wonder if there’s any way to combat the inevitable incorrect news during a crisis. Thankfully, even though the internet causes lots of problems in the spreading of falsehoods, it can also do a lot of good in helping you to dispel them.

Here are five tools and tips that help you to give in to the sceptic inside you and check the accuracy of statements you hear.

1. Do a Quick Reverse Image Search

You can utilize Google Image Search in an interesting way 5 Unusual Uses of Google Image Search You Might Not Have Heard About What’s your main use for Google Image Search? Do you use it to search similar images? Or do you put it to any of the uses I listed in my advanced Google Search for images... Read More and try reverse-searching on any images you think might be fake. In Chrome, you can right-click on any image and click Search Google for image, or visit the image search page and click the camera button to upload an image in other browsers, to find other uses of the image.

If you perform this search on a “breaking image” and see that it was uploaded somewhere else five years ago, that’s a sure sign the image was faked or recycled.

2. Find The Truth Behind Fake Videos

Amnesty’s YouTube DataViewer is like reverse image search for videos. Enter any YouTube URL into the page, and it will analyze it to try to find the original upload. Fake videos are often older clips simply downloaded and re-uploaded by someone new to pretend like it’s a new development.

YouTube doesn’t let you find out if a video is the original or not; this tool will and you’ll know if a video is truly new footage or not.

3. Catch The “Photoshoppers”

To find out if an image has been edited in Photoshop, try uploading it to FotoForensics, which will analyze it for spots that suggest an alteration might have occurred. Since it can be really hard to tell if something was edited in Photoshop these days (except in the case of hilarious blunders The Top 10 Photoshop Blunders Of All Time Over the past decade or two, Adobe’s Photoshop image editing software has become a staple in the world of graphics and media. In fact, Photoshop’s popularity and usage is so widespread that the word "photoshop"... Read More ), this is a great tool to combat hoaxes.


FotoForensics has a detailed tutorials section and a blog that takes you behind some of the “fake” catches.

4. Dig Into False Political Stories

When it comes to politics, PolitiFact is the source to visit for any possible falsehoods. It allows you to review the statements of various political figures and see if they’re complete hogwash or actually true. Their Pants on Fire section contains the biggest recent lies; if you see your supposed news bit here, you know it’s not true.


Another similar resource is, allowing you to view the truth about various stories.

5. Verify Weather Facts

Finally, you can try using WolframAlpha 10 Surprising Things You Didn't Know Wolfram Alpha Could Do I continue to be amazed by Wolfram Alpha and the way it crunches numbers around openly available data. The result – it shows us the world in a far more inter-connected and interesting way. It... Read More to verify weather facts. WolframAlpha can tell you what the weather was in an area on a given day, giving you something to combat that story about wild weather. Typing “weather in Orlando on April 16th, 2016 at 10 AM” will give you a report; if it doesn’t match up with some story about a crazy hurricane, you have reason to be skeptical.


WolframAlpha uses multiple sources (you can spot the list by scrolling down to the Sources link), so it’s a quick way to find the accuracy of a weather report.

Getting to the Truth

Clearly there are a lot of issues that the ever-connectivity of the Internet brings to reliable news. With a few tips and being intentional about what you share, you can cut down on the spread of bad information and see through any lies in the wake of a crisis. It’s great to stay current and know what’s happening, but being vigilant goes a long way, too.

Don’t have time to get invested in the news? Check out how to skim current events when you’re busy 4 Superb Ways to Skim the Daily News When You Are Busy In these busy times, getting your daily dose of news is like being dosed by a firehose. Free online news summarizers help. These four newsletters are among the best curated by passionate news hunters. Read More , or just read spoof news sites Faking It: 8 Of The Best Spoof News Websites Keeping up with the news of the day, whether it be local, national, or international, is important. It's never good to bury your head in the sand, unaware of what is happening around you. However,... Read More for some laughs.

How do you combat false news in the wake of a crisis? Share your advice below!

Explore more about: Google News, Politics, Scams, Wolfram Alpha.

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  1. Sidney Jones
    May 12, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    Here's a few things to keep in mind: The managers of 'news' organizations have hijacked the term: 'media'. They would like you to believe that they *ARE* 'The Media'. Actually, there are many media (media is the plural of medium). Anything at all, that qualifies as being useful in assisting anybody in making a creative statement, functions as a medium. For example, water, ice, food, chalk, paint, light, photography, newspapers, books, films (movies), video, stage acting, street busking, etc., etc. But, those managers have a further secret - they are not in the news business - they are in the advertising business - they propagate commercials. In-between commercial advertisements they feature alleged 'news', especially appearances of exciting conflicts, because these topics help hold the viewer's attention on the TV, magazine, radio, etc. So, with that in mind you can see that those managers have very little motive to present 'the truth' in the form of news. Rather, they are keeping their own attention on the money they are paid by advertisers. All they need to do is hold your attention between commercial advertisements. Knowing this, why would you believe that any of their tales are necessarily reliable? Sure, reliable reporting helps maintain their image, but alas, that is secondary to the money. Of the techniques shared in the article, I have found the reverse image search to be the most useful. Good luck on your search for truth!

  2. John Baker
    May 12, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    It's been my experience that many of the people who are inclined to fall for these fake "news" stories are the sort who won't believe anything that doesn't have a strong right-wing slant. They see sites like Politifact and Snopes (or any other source that contradicts their preconceived notions, for that matter) as propaganda mills pushing a "leftist agenda" and no amount of evidence to the contrary will convince them otherwise.

    • Anonymous
      May 12, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      There ain't no such animal as really objective news reporting. Most, if not all, reporting is biased. First, there are the unintentional personal biases of the person doing the reporting, acquired during his/her formative years. Then there are the institutional biases of the organization for which the reporter is working. Then there are the intentional biases of the reporter's political/religious beliefs. Finally, the news is filtered through the economic, ethical and political biases of the reader.

      Let's face it, to most people "objective reporting" is the kind that agrees with their biases.

      • Kelsey Tidwell
        May 14, 2016 at 1:39 am

        I agree with fcd76218. That is exactly why it's best when making opinions about what high-profile persons are saying, listen to THEM say it. Don't give credence to the many many op-eds which seem to thrive on the sarcastic use of quotation marks in order to make whichever speaker is the target of the moment appear as ignorant and irrational as possible...while the commentator attempts to look vastly intelligent.

        To either political party, rest-assured that the other team is indeed nauseatingly childish in how they push their agendas. Doesn't matter which of the extremist sides of the aisle you sit on. Fanatics are every race, sex and philosophy, and the only ignorant people are the ones who think they're not fanatical in some sense.