How to Spot Fake News
UATV reporter Julia Bozhko offers some tips
UATV Reporter Julia Bozhko Offers the following for spotting fake news:
Five years ago, back in 2014, while I was visiting a small village bordering with Russia, I was asked, how a person could know if what is shown on TV is true. I immediately answered – “You need to use your brain.” We were talking about the “new” governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Gubarev, who was, without any notable resistance, ‘appointed’ by a crowd on the main square of Donetsk, although no one had known a thing about him just the day before. And the people I had this conversation with weren’t at all puzzled by this. Yes, they had been watching Russian TV channels. But even so, I asked them – “What do you really know about him?” And the answer was obvious – they knew nothing.
Back in 2013-2014, I first encountered deliberate disinformation spreading. It was shared via social media, in most cases – via the social media platforms Odnoklassniki and VKontakte. One such story was that the ATMs were running out of cash, and they wouldn’t be refilled. As soon as an hour later, queues of people lined up near banks hoping to withdraw cash while they still could.
Fake information like this spreads widely. The Russian media could, without any doubt, publish a story that some administrative buildings were stormed by nationalists. Although in reality, they were stormed by non-local people with apparently pro-Russian views.
Every single day more and more manipulative news appears in media because the technology that enables it to be spread is evolving.
There are a lot of fake stories in the media, and in most cases viewers or readers simply have no time to fact-check. To be honest, many people learn about what’s happening around them through vlogs, TV channels, and Instagram.
Even journalists don’t always know how to determine manipulative news, often getting into a real mess.
When I was working on a report about fighting misinformation, I decided it would be worth reminding our readers and viewers about how to resist falling for the propagandists’ bait.
There are three ground rules outlined by the Detector Media Editor-in-Chief Natalia Ligachova. According to her, distributing fakes in the era of social networks is much easier than busting them.
Many experts conclude that there’s no sense in fake-busting, and the media should simply have a clear information policy – to tell the truth, and thus to gain the audience’s trust.
So, here’s Rule#1.
First of all, any media consumer must always remember: if he/she was really disturbed or puzzled by some news, then it is worth checking to see how the story is covered by several different sources. This particularly applies to information that provokes an emotional reaction, because by reacting emotionally, a viewer falls under the influence of the story’s producer and has difficulty thinking rationally about it. In order to understand whether the information is reliable or not, should check at least three different sources.
It’s very important to realize who owns the media, even national channels. Unfortunately, many Ukrainians don’t bother with it. It’s important to know because if a channel belongs to Medvedchuk or his affiliates, you should understand that there will probably be pro-Russian propaganda there. If the channel belongs to Kolomoisky, Pinchuk, or Akhmetov, then there will be no openly pro-Russian propaganda. But the news may contain some information that serves the interests of the particular oligarch.
When an expert comments on any piece of news, it is hard for viewers to accurately gauge if the expert is independent one or not. But, at least, it’s worth it to see if there is a second point of view. For example, on INTER TV channel we often see comments from just one political force – the Opposition Platform ‘For Life,’ but no second opinion is presented. This should serve as a signal – something is wrong here.
Here is some more advice from texty.org.ua journalist Nadiia Romanenko. According to her, it is very important to:
- Make an informed choice: these are the media I follow, I trust this source. Of course, you can browse what’s being published on other sites. A frequent motivation for the people who read the “Russian Spring” is to know a different opinion. But let’s be honest – they already know what opinions they can find there. In any case, if you have several sources that are verified and that you trust in – it’s a good sign.
- Focus on the content. If the news is very emotional, and at the same time it is not presented as a column, an author’s op-ed, you should be wary. News must be all about facts, not emotions.
- You can also follow the webpages of the specialized organizations that monitor the media landscape and the information space.
There’s one more important aspect. News that can be labeled as #fail or #victory are fakes in 90 percent of cases. So we all need to check the facts and be careful. Search for the source, think the news over.
The texty.org reporters taught artificial intelligence to recognize manipulations. The database works according to an algorithm that sorts out news and recognizes fakes. Every week, artificial intelligence finds up to 20 percent of misinformation, which is 3-4,000 posts – and that’s by having processed only 80 sites. Mostly, this is news from Russian sources. But they are published not only by the Russian media, but also the Ukrainian ones that are biased.
I also strongly recommend this website: https://medianavigator.org/ . If you are a school teacher or a media trainer, this set of exercises is excellent. It is an educational platform created by international experts.
The exercises from the “Media Navigator” helps answer many questions like –
How do I tell if the news is fake or not? Why does the same event cause a different reaction in different audiences? What tools are most often used in advertising and propaganda?
And the last rule – my personal one. Read diagonally. Choose only the facts.
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