News or Fake: How to Identify the Key Differences
Alexander Storozhuk, Internet Entrepreneur, founder of content marketing platform PRNEWS.IO
Informational hoaxes, fake news, misinformation, fact manipulation, brainwashing... Despite the variety of terms, they all mean the same thing - lies and false information that interested parties try to present as official news.
It seems that today, more than 90% of all news reports are not only untrustworthy, but they irreparably harm society as a whole.
Several years ago, Collins, one of the oldest English dictionaries, awarded the phrase "fake news" the title of Expression of the Year. It is used in media publications and journalists' vocabulary too often. But with the development of digital technologies, social networks, and the rapid increase in the number of Internet users, fake news has become so entrenched in our lives that distinguishing truth from manipulation becomes difficult even for those who are in the know. And for most people (if their work is not related to journalism, media, PR, political technology, or communications), it is simply impossible.
How the coronavirus catalyzed the formation and spread of fakes
In particular, the dominance of fake news is related to the fact that any crisis is an impetus for its growth by tenfold. It does not matter whether it is a political collapse, currency collapse, or pandemic. As soon as something happens, the concentration of fake news in the media space instantly increases.
The coronavirus pandemic has obviously affected not only the entire world but also the Internet space. It is enough to recall the first days of lockdown when dishonest businessmen and cybercriminals came into play, making the most of it by conducting large-scale "information campaigns" and phishing attacks. The expression that to some war is hell, while to others - a kind mother, is just about such businessmen, who, in the pursuit of profit, do not disdain any methods.
So, in addition to the flurry of fake news, during that period, a lot of fake stores, dangerous programs, and software related to the topic of coronavirus and fraudulent schemes appeared on the web. It has to be admitted that with the growing panic and confusion of the population in the background, this worked by 1000% (just remember the numerous scams with medical masks or lung ventilator machines).
Experts and the leading media have already dubbed 2020 the year of false news. Therefore, to resist false and toxic informational influence in the future, it is important to understand the differences between fake news and official messages. I will tell you in detail what they are and how to observe the key rules of information hygiene.
Research by PRNEWS.IO: where people get news, fakes, and their main signs
We conducted a survey at PRNEWS.IO to find out how Internet users can distinguish fake news from real one. We were also interested in the sources where people get information, how much they trust them, and according to what criteria they determine the credibility of news.
In the study, more than 130 respondents working in the field of PR, public relations, marketing, advertising, journalism, consulting, telephony, SMM, finance, law, and education took part.
As it turned out, today, most respondents learn news by visiting news sites and online media (40.2%). At the same time, 35.9% prefer to get information about events in a particular industry, country, or the world with the help of social networks.
Television is slowly but surely giving up its positions - 6.5%. YouTube is used by 5.2% of respondents to learn about news, and Telegram news channels and forums are almost equally popular among Internet users: 3.9% and 3.3%, respectively.
An interesting but expected aspect: none of the respondents mentioned any interest in print media.
This can be explained by the speed of information distribution. Today, it is so high that any "non-digital" news source simply cannot keep up with it, and no one will read the news of the past days because they will be replaced by hundreds of other events. The spread of Internet technologies and mobile applications, thanks to which you can find an answer to any question and read any news on an ordinary smartphone, contributes to the extinction of print media.
According to the results of the survey, more than half of the respondents (57.1%) fully trust the news content. Nevertheless, 42.9% do not take news content at face value, looking for additional facts and primary sources.
It's good that more and more online users develop the habit to be critical about any information, pay attention to its presentation, and not share doubtful material. So, the main signs of fake news, according to the respondents of PRNEWS.IO, are:
- lack of an official source, reference to an "insider," "information from behind the scenes," etc. - 29.7%
- hyperbolized, absurd, too emotional headline - 24.3%
- the obscure or suspicious domain of the site - 24.3%
- anonymous material, absence of the author or information about him/her in the public domain - 13.5%
- imposition of a certain point of view in the text, twisting and falsification of facts - 2.7%.
How to develop antibodies to fakes: 7 recommendations
Not to become a victim of fakes, to preserve the ability to think soberly and filter information, I recommend systematically following the rules listed below.
First. Always remember that an informational message should not provoke destructive emotions (panic, fear, anger, hatred, or pity). Good news is different from manipulation or propaganda in that it presents the facts as neutrally as possible, with no judgments or drama. The task of the media is to present information impartially.
Second. Don't let your emotions get the best of you; always use your critical judgment. If you feel and see that the content is too emotional, it makes sense not to fully trust the source and look for alternative sources of information.
If the title and the material are full of emotional appeals, pompousness, and stereotypes, most likely, the author either manipulates the audience or has no knowledge of the basics of classical journalism. In any case, such news is not worth trust or time.
Third. Use several news sources (preferably official news agencies, not third-rate platforms), which will cover the event from different angles. That way, you have a better chance of seeing the most objective picture. By the way, try to read the news, not listen or watch it: when you read it, you think more rationally and easily recognize the attempt to manipulate your consciousness.
Fourth. If the material lacks a specific source of information (the truthfulness of which is also worth checking) and constantly uses only impersonal phrases like "experts said...," "scientists found out...," or "the military revealed the truth...," it is 100% fake.
Fifth. Distinguish opinions from facts! Only facts, balanced and objective, are more important than opinions, speculation, and interpretations. The format of "a good person telling the public something emotionally, with an honest face" is one of the main signs of unreliable information and manipulation.
Sixth. A one-sided presentation of the material is another clear sign of a fake. If the news article accuses someone by using "hard" evidence but does not comment on the accused party, it is, most likely, ordered by someone.
Seventh. From time to time, allow yourself an informational detox and don't rush to repost the material before you've checked it for "red flags."