Credits

  • MOOC coordinators Manuel Gértrudix Barrio & Rubén Arcos Martín
  • Content written by Cristina Ivan
  • Multimedia design by Alejandro Carbonell Alcocer
  • Visual Identity by Juan Romero Luis

How to spot fake news?

Disinformation/propaganda analysis: Identifying and exposing hostile information influencing

Consider the source

The first thing we need to do when reading news is to check the source. Is it a reliable and well established news agency or is it a site or blog with quasi-anonymous owner? Remember that the overall aim of propaganda is to obtain strategic advantages, political and financial capital brand and/or image promotion by presenting misleading information, giving partially true information that detour the real meaning of events, or simply fabricating ill-intended news.

Check the author

Secondly, whenever reading either a piece of news or a complete article, we must carefully look for the name of the author. If it is anonymous, then we must treat the Information with caution. Equally relevant, articles signed by obscure individual or with names that resemble, yet slightly differ from the names of well reputed journalists should give us a hint to check further.

Check the date

One of the most common tricks used by the propaganda machine is to roll in the (social) media same article dated years ago. This is also a practice of scandal and tabloid publications that use old pieces of news to re-circulate past errors, clickbaits, misleading headlines, and falsely sensational news

Check your cognitive biases

Propaganda and partisan discourse counts on influencing readers’ perceptions by fading logic and appealing to strong emotions. It mostly encourages distorted, partial, uninformed or prejudiced thinking. Most common biases are:

  • The alleged certainty, when superfluous arguments are given for which something ought to be true
  • Circular reasoning, when one statement is used to validate another and vice-versa
  • The straw person argument, when an adversary’s point of view is misrepresented to be easier to counterattack
  • The use of affective influence – when authority is granted based on likes, appeal etc.
  • Use of time pressure – act now or loose forever!

Read the whole article

Headlines can be utterly misleading so reading the entire article may prove extremely important for establishing the truth value of what is stated. Same is true for being able to spot logical phallacies and erroneous judgements professed by the author.

Consult alternative sources

The fundamental question we must ask ourselves when reading a piece of news or a full article is whether there are any other sources of information on the topic. If so, can we find similarities and/or differences? This should shed light on propaganda and disinformation.

Is it a joke?

That might be one of the most important questions, as many readers may fall gullible to utter jokes made on blogs, sites and journals specialised in humoristic and satire writings.

Consult the experts

When in doubt, please remeber to use fact checking platforms to clear the fog.

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Source: Ifla