STOP / THINK / CHECK_
Read more than the headline.
Headlines are designed to catch your eye but a headline can’t give the full story, and neither can a short social media post. If it sounds unbelievable, it probably is.
Don’t assume that a picture or photo is giving you the whole story.
Sometimes pictures lie. If a picture has been altered or ‘photoshopped’, or simply used out of context, then it can be easy to draw the wrong conclusions. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from. Tools like Google Reverse Image Search can help to fact-check images.
Just because information goes viral or is trending, doesn’t mean it’s accurate.
Disinformation can be designed to provoke a strong emotional reaction and prompt instant sharing or ‘liking’ in a moment of outrage, excitement, disbelief, and so on. Social media and messaging applications make it really easy to share information quickly to wide groups of people.
Think carefully about what the information is for
That means asking yourself some questions. Information is created to:
- tell us something (news)
- entertain us (satire, cartoon strips, funny videos)
- persuade us (advertising)
Look at the style, tone and source of the information to help you to judge how reliable or accurate it is.
Consider your own biases
Ask yourself whether the information challenges you or does it match your own views. We are more likely to believe information that supports our own views – even if it seems a bit dubious.
Formulas like algorithms can track what you read, see and hear online and generate recommendations for you based on your previous choices. So the information that you get can be highly personalised and not necessarily reflect broader views or opinions.
See if the information is being reported anywhere else
If you can’t find the same information elsewhere, it could be because it is inaccurate, unreliable or out of date. This is especially true if the information appears to very topical or newsworthy.
Look closely at the web address
Sometimes disinformation is found on websites with a web address (URL) that looks very similar to a well-known news or media site. There might only be a small change in the spelling of the URL. If in doubt, go to the real site and compare the URLs.
If the information comes from a website that you are not familiar with, look for an "About" section to learn more about who is behind the website and why they might have this information.
Find out who the author, producer or publisher is
Knowing who created the information will help you judge what their motivation is. Are they trying to sell something, a product, an idea or something else? If so, why? Is the author or publisher a supporter of a particular political idea or figure? Is the author an online "influencer" like some Youtubers? Are they likely to be paid to say this?
Look at the detail to check for accuracy
Do any dates mentioned make sense? Are there references to unnamed experts? Are the links to the author’s sources clearly visible? Information that comes from reliable and trustworthy sources is usually well written. So, watch out for typos and strange sounding sentences.
Ask the experts
Get a second opinion. There are many free fact-checking services available. Irish fact-checking sources include theJournal.ie and Factcheckni.org. The International Fact Checking Network, is a unit of the Poynter Institute dedicated to bringing together fact-checkers worldwide by promoting best practices and exchanges in this field, underpinned by a code of principles.
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