Social media is arguably the lifeblood of any successful cyber propaganda and fake news campaign

Social media is arguably the lifeblood of any successful cyber propaganda and fake news campaign, and social networking services like Facebook, Google, and Sina’s Weibo as well as WeChat are taking strides to police the content they host. Google, for instance, rolled out a feature where fact check can be tagged on the blurbs or snippets of news articles posted on its News search page. It is one of Google’s many strategies for ridding its services of fake content including rewriting the algorithm of its search engine. Facebook’s response included the suspension of 30,000 fake accounts in France, an awareness campaign through advertisements in the UK’s major newspapers, and improvements to mechanisms that filter and flag hyperbolic and fake stories in its News Feed. In general, Facebook’s efforts are aimed at making fake news less profitable, adding new technology to curb its spread, and providing users better tools when they do encounter fake news. Indeed, what we’re seeing is the advent of self-rectification that happens each time a technology in communications significantly outpaces its previous standard. As the effect of fake news becomes more palpable, society is responding by establishing benchmarks from shared information that are grounded in fact, and would also better arm people with the ability to determine and unmask it for themselves.
Ultimately, users are the first line of defence against fake news. In a post-truth era where news is easy to manufacture but challenging to verify, it’s essentially up to the users to better discern the veracity of the stories they read and prevent fake news from further proliferating. Here are some signs users can look out for if the news they’re reading is fake:
• Hyperbolic and clickbait headlines
• Suspicious website domains that spoof legitimate news media
• Misspellings in content and awkwardly laid out website
• Doctored photos and images
• Absence of publishing timestamps
• Lack of author, sources, and data
Apart from identifying red flags, readers should also exercise due diligence such as:
• Reading beyond the headline
• Cross-checking the story with other media outlets if it is also reported elsewhere
• Scrutinizing the links and sources the article uses to back up its story, and confirming those aren’t spreading misinformation themselves
• Researching the author, or where and when the content is published
• Cross-referencing the content’s images to see if they’ve been altered
• Reviewing the comments, checking their profiles (if they’re real or bots), and observing the timestamps between comments (i.e. see if a paragraph can be written and posted in a minute or less, or if previous comments were posted verbatim, etc.)
• Reading the story thoroughly to see if it’s not satire, a prank, or hoax
• Consulting reputable fact checkers
• Getting out of the “filter bubble” by reading news from a broader range of reputable sources; stories that don’t align with your own beliefs don’t necessarily mean they’re fake

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