26 May

The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives in every way, never before have so many everyday activities gone digital. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms have become a means to connect people with businesses or friends and family.

While most people use social media to connect with others, there are those who use social media to deliberately spread false information, manipulate stories and fabricate conspiracies for their own malicious benefit.

Fake news is nothing new, what is new is how easy it is to share the news on a massive scale.

As the coronavirus moves unseen in South Africa, it has never been as critical as it is today to seek out accurate information on social media. By sharing unverified news or fake news, you are potentially exposing yourself to legal action or worse, dismissal by your employer.

Luckily, UASA has put together a few tips to help you spot fake news on the internet:

Check the source

If you come across a story from a source that you’ve never heard of before, do some digging!

Before you read or think of sharing anything on social media, check the source first. Check the web address for the page you’re reading. Spelling errors in company names, or strange-sounding extensions like “.infonet” and “.offer,” rather than “.com” or “.co.uk,” may mean that the source is suspect.

Read the full story

Be aware of catchy headlines that are outrageous and shocking in their nature. One of the main reasons fake news is such a big issue is because it is often believable, so it’s easy to get caught out emotionally.

Fake news is also written to create “shock value,” a strong instinctive reaction such as fear or anger is used to motivate the reader into sharing it.

Check the author

Do a quick research on the author.

Do they exist?

Are they credible?

Have they written on this or other topics before?

Use common sense

Sometimes the shock value in the headlines is too extreme that it cannot be real. For example:

“President Ramaphosa photographed with Osama bin laden”

“One easy trick to cure coronavirus”

Use your common sense and general knowledge to separate what is real and fake.

Who else is reporting the story?

Has anyone else picked up on the story? What do other sources say about it?

Professional news agencies in South Africa such as News24, Eye Witness News (EWN) and the SABC News have rigorous editorial guidelines and extensive networks of highly trained reporters. These are good places to start but remember, anyone can make a mistake, so keep looking.

Fake images can look real

Modern editing software has made it easy for people to create fake images that look real. There are some warning signs you can look out for. Strange shadows on the image, for example, or jagged edges around a figure.

Keep in mind also that images can be 100% accurate but used in the wrong context

Be sure of the information before you share

Research is key. Make sure that you understand everything that you read before sharing with other people. Read to understand, avoid seeking relevance by sharing false and unverified information.

Fake news is deliberate untruths, or stories that contain some truth but aren’t completely accurate either by accident or by design. Some people can claim that accurate stories are “fake news” because they don’t agree with the context. By following these tips as set out above, you are better prepared to identify if an article is real or fake news.

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