The process of checking that a fake or deceptive site is not published for public viewing, and not just a site but any type of content like reports, statements, or social media posts is called fact-checking.
Fact-checking can be done in-house by the editors and publishers of the content team before publishing, or sometimes people hire third-party services for the same this is known as external fact-checking.
1. How to Fact Check?
1.1. The Credibility of the Author
Make sure that the author who is writing or speaking content has up-to-date information about the topic and domain.
This can be done by looking up the person on his/her LinkedIn or even by a quick Google search to check credentials.
Adding a slightly variant version of the whole story is one thing but biased articles are serious red flags.
1.2. ‘About Us’ Section
All the well-managed and reputable websites have a section of ‘About Us’. Always check a website for the same, if it is missing then there is something fishy.
This is basically like a learning tool for the company and the website as it helps you understand their brand better and also gives you information like their contact details.
1.3. Content Bias
Learn to separate fact from fiction, and check if the online articles are written in a partial manner.
Check if the author used his own beliefs or emotional language for persuasion.
Make sure that there are no provocative headlines and always present information fairly. Judge hard to sort truth, without ignoring evidence no matter how small.
1.4. Data Expiration
It is just not medicines or perishables that have a fixed shelf life, even data comes with an expiration date.
Make sure all the data that has been added is up-to-date information, accurate and that the article cites sources to avoid fake news.
1.5. Source Reliability
Always make sure that articles contain unfiltered truth. Even the best researchers fail at times if proper checking is not done.
An article cites sources, check those thoroughly because sometimes even a well-known URL might turn out to be a source of fake news stories.
Sometimes official-sounding associations can actually be really biased think tanks providing only a fringe view, not all photographs or false youtube videos.
1.6. Content Verification
Make sure to be fully aware of the topic of the article before fact-checking it.
For avoiding fake news read as much as possible about the topic and verify the news article, and prevent the use of exaggerated and provocative headlines.
If you still feel there is something wrong, use better tools for publishing knowledgeable online articles.
1.7. Searching Data
Keep a check on how you perform a search, and what is your own search attitude.
Is your search language biased, are you falling prey to fake news spans? Are you stuck on a particular point in your head and thus you’re having difficulty in separating fact from fiction?
1.8. Sensational Content
Anything posted online, especially on social media platforms that look sensational has a high chance of being fake. Make a point to fact-check before you believe the same or spread the news.
If it is too raunchy or juicy it might even be a publicity stunt and the more sensation it creates, the more skeptical you should be.
You need to be very careful with all pictures that you see online, it has become really difficult to differentiate between a real and virtually created online image as there are very strong editing tools available that can be used very easily even by a layman.
Some tools like Google reverse image can help you decode the actual source and information of the picture, whether it is a digitally created piece or manipulated in any sort.
2. Why Fact Checking is Important?
It is important to check facts, proofread and edit any online article or digital and social media content.
If it is fake news, it will impact the opinion of the people who will read it. This will create misinformation and they might make decisions based on the knowledge that they attained via those articles.
Posting content that is biased or defaming in any manner, can tarnish a person or brand’s image.
We know how news spread, fake news also spreads like fire. The reputation once affected takes a long time to regain its value.
There can be legal consequences for spreading fake news and a brand might sue the author for spreading a fake news story and it might become a big case.
Always make sure the author is genuine and so is the content to prevent any kind of legal action.
Consult experts before publishing and research the background of the author check LinkedIn, his domain knowledge and verify sources too.
3. How to Solve the Problem?
Although the problem is big and widespread, you can start small by making small differences.
Innovative national educational programs, news literacy projects, and other awareness campaigns can help people understand what is fake news and how it is harmful.
These will also help them understand what are the red flags which need to be avoided while you fact-check.
This can be started early even in middle school where middle school students can be taught how to fact check, explain domain manipulation, and even basic things like the use of capital letters.
High school students who are older and have a better understanding should be taught how to edit and proofread any content, they must learn to fact-check using tools and other sources.
4. Final Thoughts
Fact-checking is done to avoid misinformation in any manner so that fake news does not reach the audience and affect their opinion about anything.
It is important to fact-check, to avoid any ill consequences like defamation of a brand or a person, and to prevent any legal actions.
We can reduce misinformation and fake news by making people aware of the consequences and running innovative national educational programs.