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Fake News Is The New Virus

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

by Karen Kleinman

Usually when it’s my turn to hand in a blog entry, it usually has something to do with websites, but with the recent Corona virus that is running rampant, I thought it might be prudent to serve up a healthy reminder to be extremely critical of online information that gets dished out and consumed.

The majority of news generating entities are legitimately trying to spread important information about whatever the current topic of the day may be. But there are some outlets that totally disregard ethical reporting for whatever reason - be it page clicks, financial gain, or indirect intentional harm to others.

While we are fairly skeptical, especially when it comes to heated topics, that air on broadcast television and over the radio, there is a trend of throwing caution to the wind when it comes to getting and sharing news online.

I was scrolling through my news feed on Facebook, and trying to sift through the funny cat videos, the Baby Yoda memes, and some of the group and page posts to get to see things posted from my friends.

Of those posts, I could count at least 5 in the first 30 posts that were spreading false news, from Amazon shutting down, to animal shelters becoming over-crowded because people are abandoning animals because of COVID-19, and the wild imaginations that the government is going to send out checks to everyone. And while some of the topics just mentioned have some merit of existence about them, it is definitely not the end of those stories.

So, how can you decipher just what is and what is not fact?

How can you even know when to be skeptical?

These are the first red flags to look for:

- Do you have a strong reaction to what you just read or heard? Relieved? Stunned? Mad as Heck!?

- Does a story seem extreme in either its ridiculousness or truthfulness?

- Do you get the urge to want to immediately share that story with everyone you know because there is no doubt there is benefit in your friends having this information?

- Are you tempted to immediately open your wallet?

So, there’s a red flag, or several, in play, now what?

Check the article for keys that cut through all the fluff and smoke:

- Look for confirmation that the source is the official source.

- Search the article for names, places, dates, quotes, things that can be identified and placed in other articles or databases.

- Check to see if the story is current and not outdated.

- Check to see if the items above correspond to other reports about the same story.

- Check the source of the content – is it from a satire site like The Onion or a tabloid like Daily Mirror or The Sun?

- Are important facts getting left out? Does the story seem vague with no real details?

- Take “Breaking News” with a grain of salt, as in the beginning there is little detail to report, look for updated Breaking News stories, which may take time to develop.

- Does the media outlet continually slant their presentation of news? Does it feel like there is an agenda instead of even reporting? Is more than one side of the story being told?

- Does the story seem too good to be true?

- And lastly, what happens if the (collective) you share the story and it is not true? Panic? Riots? No toilet paper?

After carefully scrutinizing a story before sharing, and then finding out that it is still false news, what do you do?

Don’t feel bad for getting duped. It can and does happen to everyone, myself included. The thing to do is own the mistake and take down the post or at the very least comment that it is fake news. The fall out from posting fake news is usually getting flamed or roasted with comments. But it can go deeper than just that. It can cause a loss of trust and add doubt. For a person - that’s bad, but just imagine the loss of trust in a business.

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