Our Communications Co-ordinator JAKE LLOYD shares seven tips for telling the difference between reliable and unreliable information online.
The internet is full of information. Some of it is good. Some of it is not. Being able to tell the difference is important, because good, reliable information helps each of us make decisions that can benefit our lives and the lives of those around us. And so when you see stories online or on social media, it's important to think about whether the story is true or not. To help you decide, here are seven questions you can ask yourself. They all come from my experience working in a BBC newsroom, but also from an excellent online resource called ‘How To Spot Fake News’.
1. Who wrote it? If you can, try to click away from the story to investigate the website, its contact information, and its values and aims. Try to find out if the author is real and credible. If it is just text pasted on to a social media post or email, ask the person who pasted it where they got it from.
2. Have you seen it reported elsewhere? Try to see if there is other information that supports the story. You might be able to click on links in the article to read more. Or you could search for the story using an online search engine.
3. Have you read more than just the headline? Headlines are often exaggerated in an effort to get more people to click on an article. It helps to read the whole article, and then ask yourself if the headline is accurate.
4. When was it written? An older news story might sometimes be out-of-date and no longer relevant to current events.
5. Is it a joke? Sometimes people write untrue articles to make people laugh, or sometimes to deliberately confuse people. If you think this might be the case, then research the site and the author.
6. Are you bias? Consider if your own beliefs or mood might affect your judgment. For example, if you are fearful of something, then you might be tempted to accept information that eases that fear, even if it is untrue.
7. If still in doubt, ask an expert. If you know anyone with in-depth knowledge about the subject of the story, why not get in touch with them and see what they think.