Misinformation is a huge problem these days. Unfortunately, the Internet has not made things better. Back in the 1980s, it was widely believed that greater access to information would make people more informed. Sadly, the massive amount of inaccurate information on the Internet has been at least as serious of a problem as the previous lack of accessibility to knowledge.
The term “fake news” first gained attention around the 2016 United States presidential election. Although it didn’t influence the outcome of the election, it still showed how prevalent it was.
In the subsequent years, it became even more obvious how much misinformation there was on mine. In 2019, 49% of Internet users admitted that they shared online news articles that they later discovered were inaccurate.
As concerning as fake news is, there is arguably an even bigger problem with outdated content or articles that made seemingly minor good faith mistakes. The inaccurate content in these articles might not be as egregious, but the misleading content is a lot more prolific.
As an Internet user, you need to do your best to be adequately informed. This means understanding the veracity of any news that you consume online.
The following tips will help you avoid being misinformed by inaccurate or outdated news articles.
Use reliable news APIs
Trying to assess the accuracy of online information on your own can be challenging to say the least. Fortunately, it is a lot easier when you use a news API to assist you.
Many of these tools are good at vetting articles to make sure that they are not out of date. They can also help make sure that articles are only aggregated from trusted sources, which minimizes the risk that you will be duped by fake news.
Webhose talks about the merits of News API tools on its blog:
“With the ever-expanding number of news sources online and news articles published every moment, it is critical that these organizations have comprehensive and continuous coverage of high-quality news sources to deliver accurate insights to their customers. That’s why media and web monitoring organizations are increasingly relying on tools and services to gather news data for them.”
You can also use sites that give you access to real-time news, so you don’t have to worry as much about outdated content.
Look carefully at the domain name of any website
You need to pay close attention to the domain names of websites before trusting the content on them. Some fake news sites will choose domain names that are very similar to well-respected media organizations. You might need to look closely because the deviation from the real media site could only be off by a letter or two.
You should also do your research on the domain name. Sources like this one from Forbes can help you spot known fake news sites. You might find that it doesn’t have a large online footprint, so the quality of fact checking is likely to be poor, even if the site is making a good faith effort to provide quality content.
Look for disclaimers about satire
Not all websites that publish non-factual content intend to be deceptive. Many of them are satire sites that are meant for entertainment purposes.
If you are unfamiliar with a publication that you just stumbled upon, then you might want to look at the footer and the surrounding content for disclaimers. You might see something that indicates the content is fictitious. For example, the Babylon Bee, a conservative satire new site uses the tagline “your trusted source for Christian news satire.”
Look for fact checking sites about unusual content
If you read something that seems outlandish, then it might be a good idea to see if there is anything written about it on a fact checking site. Media Matters, AllSides, Fact Check and Politifact are some highly reputable fact checking sites worth using.
Look at linked sources in the article
When you are trying to assess the truthfulness of an article, you should always pay close attention to the sources that it provides. Many articles will link to other news articles or academic studies to support their arguments.
The problem is that the authors don’t always read sources carefully. They might also intentionally misrepresent the findings of the study in hopes that fact checkers won’t pay attention.
You should do your due diligence and look at the studies that they link to. You might find that the claims in the article aren’t supported by the purported sources.