Navigating #fakenews

At a PRSA Kansas meeting earlier this week, three local media experts discussed their insights on fake news. It sparked lively and interesting conversation before the panel even spoke.

Fake news is nothing new – it’s propaganda. By definition, propaganda is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.”

The difficult part is people believe what they want to believe. Contributing to this is social and search algorithms that show users information similar to what they have viewed before,  making it easy to get a biased view of any topic.

Some fake news sites and stories are expertly written so it’s easy to be tricked.

How do you know what’s real and what’s not? Here’s what our experts said: 

  • Gauge how the headline or article made you feel. A strong emotional reaction (fear, hatred, anxiety) is a red flag.
  • Is there excessive punctuation? While excessive use of exclamation points seems commonplace in social and text messages, headlines should have minimal punctuation.
  • Check the url….really check it. Look in the address bar for the full website url. Many fake news sites look similar to “real” news, or have a similar name.
  • Does the website have missing contact information? Is it extremely busy or use lots of images? Does it take a long time to load? All suspicious.
  • If there’s an image, do a reverse look up on the image. Copy the url of the image and click the camera looking button on Google images and paste the url in the box.  Or download it to your computer, then upload the file to Google images. This will show you other sites that are using that image, or a similar one. You can make your own decision to determine if the photo is real, or has been manipulated in any way.
  • Double check facts on snopes.com, factcheck.org or politifact.com.

What if your organization is the topic of #fakenews?

Get in front of the story. If the media calls you, be responsive – good advice even if you aren’t chasing fake news.

What can you do to stop the spread of #fakenews or misleading information?

Read before you share and follow the tips above. Talk to your children about the difference between real information and misinformation and how to tell the difference.

Several schools are fighting against fake news, (including one in Kansas). A professor at Wichita State University will be writing a book about fake news and teaching a class on the subject in the fall.