Written by Sahana Charan and published on 13 May 2021.
Our youngsters are often misled by outrageous WhatsApp forwards, fake videos, and dubious websites, and they fail to sift fact from fiction. Here's how you can help your teen reject fake news
Fake news and rumors on social media platforms have the power to mislead and play on people's emotions much more than real news. The lynchings of innocent people in different parts of India, following fake reports of child lifting or similar frightening news, being circulated vastly on social media, is a classic example of the adverse impact that such explosive messages can have.
As per records, in 2019, check4spam a non-profit entity that verifies posts on social media, saw a hike of 20% fake news when it came to the veracity check. The number of queries on their website increased from 4000 messages per month to almost 6000.
What is Fake News?
Fake news means false reports and misinformation spread to influence people and their emotions. It could be WhatsApp forwards, unverified news on dubious websites, fake videos, photoshopped pictures, and so on. Lately, there is a lot of buzz around fake news as many social media players have had to face the heat from governments across the world for allowing such reports to circulate on their platforms.
Why do people spread fake news? It could be for various reasons such as furthering their own religious and political interests, influencing citizens' opinions, or sometimes just for fun.
Most teenagers get their dose of news from the Internet, more so from social media. Our children must be aware of current affairs, but they must also keep their eyes open to fake news, since teens are at an age when they form biased opinions about people or organizations, based on what they see and hear. Parents need to be alert to the news that their children read online. Ask them where they get their knowledge of current affairs from, discuss the news with them, and keep them informed about credible sources of information.
One rule to always keep in mind when it comes to fake news: if it is too good or too outrageous to be true, then it is most often false. It is better to do a Google search on sensational news circulated on social media, especially those that have an intention to manipulate religious and political sentiments. There are many fact-checking websites these days, where you can verify such reports, says Tinu Cherian, a Bangalore-based social media expert who has close to four lakh followers on Twitter. Here is what your teen should look out for to identify fake news:
1.Ensure that it 'sounds right' - Is the report or video making claims that sound too outrageous or far from the truth? Does a website make regular allegations against a particular community or political party, which sound too far-fetched? Immediately do a Google check on such news. Verify bizarre photographs that seem to sensationalize an event or happening, or talk about sensational cures and remedies.
2.Check the source - News stories will mention the author, source of the news, and authentic quotes from experts/individuals verifying the report. If you do not find all these elements, then it raises a red flag for checking if it is true or false.
3. Look for unusual website names and URLs -The URL is the address of the site which you see in the taskbar. If the site address ends with an unknown or unusual ending and does not have the regular .com, .org, or .in attached to it, then it may be dubious. Time for a fact check.
4. Hunt down flimsy and glaring errors - Authentic news websites undergo strict quality checks and rarely have obvious errors or mistakes. Dubious websites or vague WhatsApp forwards that you receive on your smartphone may not bother so much about quality. So look out for glaring errors in headlines, careless grammatical and spelling mistakes, and mismatched photos.
5. Set your sight on the emotional elements - Since the objective of fake news is to sensationalize and manipulate, the headline will try to play on the reader's emotions. Credible news reports are rarely biased and take a neutral stand. But dubious claims try to outrage and manipulate.
Here are some fact-checking websites that verify fake news
|Alt News. in - An Indian website that debunks hundreds of fake news from social media|
|FactCheck.Org - An award-winning website that does a fact check of news on social media, especially political news and government policies in the United States.|
|Snopes.com - This is one of the oldest websites that has been exposing fake news regularly.|
|PolitiFact.com -This site mostly checks on claims made by political parties during campaigns, TV Ads, speeches, debates about government policies, and so on.|
|HoaxSlayer.com -This website is a good reference point to get information on spam, internet scams, and email hoaxes.|
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