Even though we are in the Post-Donald Trump era, fake news is still around. He might have been its face, given the way he and his supporters weaponised it to deadly effect, but he wasn’t the one who started it nor will it end just because he is no longer in office. It’s a problem that the world will continue to struggle with for a while although the way we are dealing with is much better than say four years ago.
The problem still remains on the reader’s or consumer’s end. While internet giants like Google and Facebook have joined the fight and are constantly creating new tools to thwart fake news, they will never be able to stop it completely. There remains, for example, a lag time between, when fake news is created and disseminated and the time when it is identified as fake news. During that interim period some people, many of them gullible, would have taken a sip from the poisoned chalice.
So just like in Tenet, that glorious movie, the best way to combat fake news is to use a pincer movement. Pummel it on the creation side while simultaneously teaching would be consumers how to quickly spot fake news and deal with it.
Google’s five ways to spot fake news
To this end Google has shared five ways in which the wider public can identify and stop fake news dead in it’s tracks:
- See if it has made the news-creators of fake news tend to go big. They never tell small and mundane lies. Their goal is to have as many eyeballs as possible on the fake story they are peddling. This creates a buzz, boosts the traffic to their sites and they laugh to bank from all the money they get from the traffic. They, therefore, make outrageous lies and claims in their fake news articles in a bid to maximise their profits. An example would be to claim a certain famous celebrity has died when they have not. If no other news sources are corroborating this tidbit then chances are it’s a lie. Corroboration is key, is CNN or some other trusted media sources corroborating the story? If not, then it might well be a lie.
- See where the news is coming from-this should be a no-brainer but it’s an essential factor that people continue to ignore. The source matters, sure you can give an unknown source the benefit of doubt but the thing is that purveyors of lies tend to have a reputation that is easy to find out even if they are big and well funded. Take for example British tabloids and their well-established biases against say Harry and Meghan Markle or Fox News and its hatred of anything liberal.
- Refer to fact-checking sources-always refer to fact-checkers when there is something big you want to verify. Google has its own fact-checking site. There are many others, you just have to land on the ones specific to the claim that is being made. For example, if it’s a 419 scam there are 419 sites. If it’s a lie about Zimbabwe, there are several sites that do fact-checking including Techzim itself.
- Make use of reverse image search-one popular way of spreading fake news is to use images that are taken out of context. A gathering of people at a funeral might be called a riot. Dead bodies due to Ebola might be said to be a result of COVID etc. All these things can be prevented by doing reverse image searches. This is where you download the image in question, go to Google Images and upload the image there. Google will then give you a series of results and context. Chances are if this is real, the image would have been used by others in a similar context. If it’s fake news you will likely end up on the real news site or some fact-checking site.
- Cross-check using Google Earth/Maps-you can use tools like Street View to see if the place where the alleged event took place matches the scene in the photograph. Usually, it doesn’t. So if the image shows a forest and there is no forest on Google maps in the actual area where the image is alleging the event took place then chances are this is fake news.
There are probably other many techniques that one can use to spot fake news but Google’s technique would catch the majority of lies. Always remember to click on the report button on whatever platform the fake news is being hosted and report it as such. This will quickly bring it to the attention of moderators and kill the lie in it’s crib.