& Virginia

Vet before You Share or Do Not Share At All!

We use to forward them in emails to all of our contacts and then later find out it was a hoax or one of those “Urban Legends”. Now, it streams through our social media and unfortunately, most folks automatically share it because it looks real. We all know it’s out there, but how do you recognize FAKE NEWS?

There is more and more concern about the impact on the general public’s thoughts, ideas and beliefs on any given topic which then creates either negative or positive emotions. And many times it’s because of what they have read, which may or may not be true. Seriously, are we so easily manipulated? And because of technology, this then becomes a security matter because the false information can come from anywhere in the world. That has itself been a major news story in the media.

Former anchor for MSNBC, CNN and Fox News, Greta Van Susteren, has been named one of Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World six times. In November 2017, she published a book entitled; “Everything You Need to Know about Social Media (Without Having to Call A Kid)“. She says: “…social media is changing our very definition of news. Social media sites are becoming the newspaper front page and the nightly newscast. An October 2016 Rasmussen poll found that almost half of all adults age 40 and under get their news primarily or exclusively from the internet and social media – and more than two-thirds of those age 40 and under have their views heavily influenced by what their family and friends post about politics on social media sites.”

Since technology enables us to get our news from more than TV and newspapers, and because technology can be abused, please be aware:

Many of the fake news stories come from sources that have copied the logo of a major news source and have a slightly altered website address. A prime example is abcnews.com.co which at first glance, appears to be abcnews.com. How about cnn-trending.com? This is not CNN and they published the Hawking code scam.

Fake news uses names which sound credible. Just a few examples are: The Boston Tribune which was founded in 2016 and has become very popular, but full of hoaxes. American News published a false story in 2016 claiming actor Denzel Washington endorsed Donald Trump for president. The fictional headline led to thousands of people sharing it on Facebook. Bizstandardnews.com is similar to the unrelated Indian English language daily newspaper called Business Standard. But if you pay attention, the disclaimer says “the stories could be true because reality is to strange nowadays”.  I could go for pages and pages, listing examples such as these.

In a 2016 article on “How to Spot Fake News”, FactCheck.org has these suggestions to help you know what is real and what is not:

  • Read beyond the headline.  If a provocative headline drew your attention, read a little further before you decide to pass along the shocking information. Fake news, especially satirical news, can include several revealing signs in the text.
  • Check the author.  Another tell-tale sign of a fake story is often the byline. The pledge of allegiance story on abcnews.com.co was supposedly written by “Jimmy Rustling.” Who is he? Well, his author page claims he is a “doctor” who won “fourteen Peabody awards and a handful of Pulitzer Prizes.” No one by the name of “Rustling” has won a Pulitzer or Peabody award.
  • What’s the support?  Many times these bogus stories will cite official or official-sounding sources, but once you look into it, the source doesn’t back up the claim. For instance, the Boston Tribune site wrongly claimed that President Obama’s mother-in-law was going to get a lifetime government pension for having babysat her granddaughters in the White House, citing “the Civil Service Retirement Act” and providing a link. But the link to a government benefits website doesn’t support the claim at all.We’ve received several questions about a fake news story on the admittedly satirical site Nevada County Scooper, which wrote that Vice President-elect Mike Pence, in a “surprise  announcement,” credited gay conversion therapy for saving his marriage. If you Google this,   the first link that comes up is a Snopes.com article revealing that this is fake news.
  • Check the date. Some false stories aren’t completely fake, but rather distortions of real events. These mendacious claims can take a legitimate news story and twist what it says – or even claim that something that happened long ago is related to current events.Since Trump was elected president, we’ve received many inquiries from readers wanting to know whether Ford had moved car production from Mexico to Ohio, because of Trump’s election. Readers cited various blog items that quoted from and linked to a CNN Money article titled “Ford shifts truck production from Mexico to Ohio.” But that story is from August 2015, clearly not evidence of Ford making any move due to the outcome of the election.
  • Is this some kind of joke? Remember, there is such thing as satire. Normally, it’s clearly labeled as such, and sometimes it’s even funny. Andy Borowitz has been writing a satirical news column, the Borowitz Report, since 2001, and it has appeared in the New Yorker since 2012. But not everyone gets the jokes. We’ve fielded several questions on whether Borowitz’s work is true.Among the headlines our readers have flagged: “Putin Appears with Trump in Flurry of Swing-            State Rallies” and “Trump Threatens to Skip Remaining Debates If Hillary Is There.” When we             told readers these were satirical columns, some indicated that they suspected the details were             far-fetched but wanted to be sure.The posts by Horner and others –  whether termed satire or simply “fake news” – are designed to encourage clicks, and generate money for the creator through ad revenue. Horner told the Washington Post he makes a living off his posts.  Asked why his material gets so  many views, Horner responded, “They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks  anything anymore.
  • Check your biases. We know this is difficult. Confirmation bias leads people to put more stock in information that confirms their beliefs and discount information that doesn’t. But the next time you’re automatically appalled at some Facebook post concerning, say, a politician you oppose, take a moment to check it out.Try this simple test: What other stories have been posted to the “news” website that is the          source of the story that just popped up in your Facebook feed? You may be predisposed to            believe that Obama bought a house in Dubai, but how about a story on the same site that      carries this headline: “Antarctica ‘Guardians’ Retaliate against America with Massive New          Zealand Earthquake.” That, too, was written by the prolific “Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Western Subscribers.”We’ve seen the resurgence of a fake quote from Donald Trump since the election – a viral        image that circulated last year claims Trump told People magazine in 1998: “If I were to run, I’d        run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe      anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific.”        We found no such quote in People‘s archives from 1998, or any other year. And a public            relations representative for the magazine confirmed that. People‘s Julie Farin told us in an email last year: “We combed through every Trump story in our archive. We couldn’t find      anything remotely like this quote – and no interview at all in 1998.
  • Consult the experts. We know you’re busy, and some of this debunking takes time. But we (FactCheck.org) get paid to do this kind of work. Between FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, the Washington Post Fact Checker and PolitiFact.com, it’s likely at least one has already fact-checked the latest viral claim to pop up in your news feed.

Wikepedia also provides a list of fake news sources as well. Hopefully, these tips may help you before you hit the “share” button.

Realistically, most of us don’t have the time to research the legitimacy of what we read. Maybe it’s best to err on the side of caution and if you don’t recognize the news source as common major media, delete it and don’t share it. If everyone did this, then we would drastically reduce our chances of being mislead, prevent our emotions from being manipulated up or down, and perhaps there would be more peace amongst us all and especially within ourselves.  The first line of defense is the person reading it – you, the reader.