When something seems too good or too bad to be true, it probably isn’t.
When a friend’s post triggers your emotions, stop, take a breath and then check before sharing.
Stopping is important because of something called confirmation bias: we rarely question things that conform to our world view. By stopping, we give our thinking brain a chance to catch up with our knee-jerk response. (For more on this, see Thinking, Fast and Slow, Amazon, YouTube)
But how are you supposed to check if something is true?
First check: is the account (Facebook or Twitter) run by someone who is an expert in the subject matter?
When the answer is “no” (it’s usually no), it’s doubly important to walk through the next steps.
Second check: what sources are cited?
If there are no sources, don’t share. If the source is generic, such as a link to the home page of a website, don’t share unless you want to do a lot of homework.
If you really, really want to share the information and there is no source, copy and paste the first sentence into Google or Bing. Surround the sentence with quotation marks. This will help you discover if the material has been copied-and-pasted without credit (aka a copyright violation).
If you find the original source, then check its credibility before sharing.
Please don’t share someone’s post if they have simply copied-and-pasted someone else’s words or downloaded-and-uploaded someone else’s images, videos or recordings. Online copyright infringement is a rampant problem. Remember that creative works are automatically the intellectual property of the creator (writer/photographer/videographer/illustrator/musician).
Did I mention that this takes time?
Emotionally-laden images, videos and posts are shared wildly on digital networks. Sharing is easy and strong emotions (outrage, pathos) are quickly triggered. Verification takes time. And effort.
Third check: are the sources credible?
For a source to be be credible, the site needs to be credible. Check the “about” page; the fewer the details, the less credibility. Does the publisher or author have an ax to grind? Then be careful before sharing. No information on who runs the site? Don’t share.
Sources should be specific links, not home page links. Review the page (or video) to see if it is opinion or a fact-based narrative with, you guessed it, sources. Evaluate those sources.
No sources cited on the referenced citation? Pass on sharing.
Share only when sources are credible.
This process applies to photos, infographics, animated gifs, video and blog posts. If this sounds a little bit finding sources for a research paper in high school or college … it’s because it is.
To check the source of an image, use Google reverse image search.
- Either copy the image URL or download a copy to your computer
- Go to Google Image Search: images.google.com
- Click the camera
- Paste the URL or upload the image
To run a reverse image search on your phone, you must first download the image.
Then upload it to reverse.photos.
Do your part to stop the spread of fake news
Think of this process as a vaccine against fake news.
The 2020 presidential election is already underway.
If enough of us slowed down before sharing, we could inoculate our digital networks against fake news.