How do you differentiate between news stories that are true and those that simply spread rumors? Here are a few tips to help you tell the difference between fact and fiction on social media.

Earlier this year, a young refugee named Anas Modamani made headlines in Germany and abroad. In 2015, Modamani took a selfie with Angela Merkel during her visit to an asylum center. Later, Modamani’s selfie with Angela Merkel was edited and shared on social media, linking him to crimes and terrorist attacks across Europe.

Modamani sued Facebook to prevent the social media giant from publishing these photos, but he lost the case because Facebook wasn’t technically at fault - it was the people sharing these posts who were committing the crime.

When it comes to misinformation, fake news can be, at best, annoying, and at worst, dangerous. Often information targeted towards refugees and asylum seekers is not reliable, relevant or timely. The news and information that can be found on social media can remain unverified, and is sometimes spread by smugglers and traffickers, putting people in danger and making an already-difficult situation more risky.

So just what is fake news? Fake news is exactly that: a news story or information that is not true. A quick critical look at a news article or a Facebook post can tell us a lot about whether it’s real or not. Here are a few pointers to help you tell fact from fiction on social media:

Be skeptical of headlines: Does the article or story sound believable? Or does it sound too good to be true or completely outrageous? Stay on high alert when you read catchy or attention-grabbing headlines, because that could mean the story is false.

Use trustworthy sources: Does the original poster look genuine and authentic? Are there spelling errors in the name? Does the website look legitimate? If you’re not sure a source is trustworthy, do some clicking around. Is the website authentic, or is it a copy-cat designed to look like another real website or source?

Check the date: Check the date of the post or article. If it’s an old story, it could have been reposted, which means the information might be out-of-date or taken out of context.

Do some investigating: No matter how many times the article or post has been shared, it still might not be real news. Is anyone else reporting the same story? In the post or story, who is the author quoting? Are they real people? Often it just takes one thorough read-through to find inconsistencies in the story.

Check the photos and videos: Do the pictures look photoshopped? Do they match the headline or story? If you can, try doing a reverse Google Image Search. Just save the photo, upload it to the search bar and see what comes out. Does the video look real and current or does it seem to be heavily edited? Use your common sense.

Try to find a second source: Have you seen the same piece of information or news shared in another place? Check on different platforms: if you If you read something on a Whatsapp group, try looking it up on Google to see if it’s real. If you see something on Facebook, search for the same topic on Twitter.

Turn to tech: There are a few extensions for your browser you can download on your browser on your mobile phone to tell you whether a news item or post is real or fake.

FiB Chrome extension for Facebook

B.S. Detector for Facebook and Twitter

Official Media Bias Fact Check, for news websites

Fact-check before you share: If in doubt, don’t share. Before you hit the "share" or "retweet" button, do your research: sharing inaccurate information can be dangerous!


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