Fake news is a phrase that gets used a lot. And confusingly, sometimes true events and issues, like global warning and the coronavirus, can be called fake news by people who don’t educate themselves on the topics.
Then there is actual fake news, the stuff you get on Whatsapp or from a site you’ve never heard of about just about anything from health, the current affairs to celebs too.
During the coronavirus, fake news has become an even bigger problem. Every day someone shares a link, a chain message or a screenshot about something and it’s almost always scary and unrealistic.
The tricky thing about our current situation, is that it’s very new to everyone, and so most of us are only learning about it day by day.
It’s a very overwhelming situation, and one you should definitely take seriously by staying inside, not meeting up in groups and only going on short walks near your home every day.
But for the sake of sanity, it’s also really important that you don’t take on lots of fake news that causes unnecessary upset and anxiety.
So next time you read something concerning, keep these tips in mind.
Check the source
The internet can be a wonderful place, where you can share literally whatever you want. But it can also be an awful place for this reason. Anyone at all can set up a website with conspiracy theories or dramatic stories about current affairs, like Covid-19. If someone shares something with you, or you come across it on social media, make sure to check where it’s coming from first. If it’s a website with a name like www.openyoureyespeople.abc.nv it’s probably safe to assume it’s not 100% trustworthy. Instead, go to HSE.ie, which is the National Health Service’s official site where all the up to date info will be about health and illness. Likewise, with news, use Irish sites like RTE News, and The Journal.ie to check in with real news from time to time, but not so often that it gets you down.
Ignore chain messages
Sadly, people of all ages, from your mum to your younger brother, may be victims of fake news at the moment because of how easily it can be shared. Whether it’s a Whatsapp about an army invasion, or an Instagram DM about how onions cure coronavirus (they don’t!), there is sadly no shortage of fake news circulating on phones at the minute. Again, the best thing to do is think about where it’s coming from. If your dad got it from his friend who got it from his boss who got it from his brother, it’s been passed through to many people to be reliable. And if it really was big news, it would be on the Six: One news on RTE or at least on reputable news sites online. So, let those know who are sharing these with you that you’re not sure about the accuracy and you prefer if they didn’t send them. And help stop this by never forwarding any of these dodgy messages to others.
Don’t trust screen shots
A screenshot of a news story may be a quick and easy way to share a message, but it can’t be fully trusted. Unfortunately, anyone can edit or Photoshop a pic to make it look like it came from Sky News, but unless you see it on the site, don’t take it in. Like chain messages, the best thing you can do is let someone know you’re not sure about it, and avoid passing it on to anyone else. The same goes with photos of ‘events’ or people which claim to be in relation to Covid-19, remember the photo could have been taken at any time and edited by anyone. The best thing you can do with a screenshot that is fake news, is to delete it. Bye Felicia!
Understand the difference between Opinion and News
In many newspapers in print and online, there is often and opinion section. This is different to news. News should always be a true fact while opinion, is just that. It’s usually someone’s thoughts and feelings about an issue, and while it’s not exactly ‘fake news’ it’s not always the be-all and end-all of the story. And while opinion pieces can be very well written and get you thinking, they aren’t fact, like straight news stories. Just check the top of the article to see if it’s labelled as ‘opinion’ or even ‘satire’ which is the use of humour or jokes to poke fun at a situation. Think Waterford Whispers or The Onion, this is usually not true, but labelled clearly that it’s a joke.