By SAM BABAYA
Last week, an un-dated voice note warning of an impending petrol shutdown was shared on Makhanda WhatsApp groups. None of these rumours has been confirmed by petrol stations or residents – and this is almost certainly fake news.
With the constant influx of new information being shared on social media, it is sometimes difficult to identify valid versus fake news. It has become the responsibility of readers to differentiate information from misinterpretations and propaganda.
Here are five ways to fact-check your news to ensure you are not a victim of fake news.
Five steps to fact-check your news
1. Check for a verifiable source
It is vital to identify whether the source of information is credible. Is the news coming from a credible news agency, or is it from an anonymous source? An unknown source could indicate unreliable information.
A credible source has a good reputation, transparency, and a history of producing verified facts. Check the journal articles that the facts were coming from. The more times the report has been peer-reviewed, the more credible the information is.
2. Check for a verified author
Is the author a specialist in the field they are talking about? Do they have the education to back their statements? The more educated and experienced the author is in a particular area, the more proficient the information they produce in the field is likely to be.
It is also important to consider the potential motives of the author. If the author benefits from spreading this information, then be sceptical.
3. Fact check
Confirm whether other sources back up the facts stated. Is the information being presented to you in agreement with other verified facts? A quick Google search can give you an idea of whether this statement could be true or not.
Is there proof of the claims being made?
Do your research. Speak to a specialist in the field and find different sources on the same topic. If there is no proof of the claims made and other reliable sources give contradictory information, the news is probably not valid.
4. Is it factual or emotive?
Emotive language is there to invoke a particular emotional reaction. Overly emotive language is sometimes used to compensate for the lack of verified facts.
Separate the emotion and analyze the factual content of the information. Sensationalized headlines that lack substantial backing are less reliable and more likely to be fake news.
5. Check the authenticity of the images
Scan images for potential editing and photoshop attempts. A lot of the time, this is poorly done and can be detected. Use Google’s Reverse Image Search to identify the origin of the image. Many images are plagiarized from other online sources.