Want to Fight Fake News? Here’s a Handy Starter Kit
Sick of those WhatsApp family group forwards that offer no proof when they insist that some politician or celebrity allegedly did something shady so you shouldn’t support them anymore?
Do those links on the sides of the article you’re reading on a website urging you to eat a mysterious fruit that’s been “proven” to be a cure for cancer get to you?
Perhaps you’ve read a headline that you can’t bring yourself to believe because it just seems too far-fetched and you’ve never heard of the publication before?
Well, here’s a list of handy tools you can use to fact check what you’re reading or watching.
1. Search Engines
Search engines are always a fact checker’s best friend. When in doubt, type the keywords into a search engine like Google and see what the results throw up. If the news is true, credible agencies and publications would already have picked it up so you’ll see multiple sources validating the information.
But if it's false, you’ll see a distinct lack of credible news sources and perhaps even an article or two by fact checking websites debunking the story.
Google’s also launched a fact check tool which will surface results from fact checking websites at the top of the page to prove or disprove a story. For example, if you search for “Donald Trump plans to step down as president”, the first two results you get are from the fact checking website Politifact. Under the second link, you can see the exact claim, who made the claim and the result of the fact check, all at one glance.
2. Reverse Image Search
You can use Google’s Reverse Image Search tool to search for a specific image and see where it was first published. The search also points out who may be in the picture, other places where the image is published and other images that are like the one that’s being searched for.
This makes it easier to find original images and to see if the image you’re searching for has been tampered with. This easily debunks stories that use images of an event to spread false stories about something else.
One example of this is an image of senior journalist Barkha Dutt that began to circulate on Twitter. It showed her holding a Pakistan flag in one hand. A quick reverse image search shows another similar photo of her without the Pakistan flag which is hosted on the website www.careers360.com.
The results also throw up a fact checking website that has debunked the authenticity of the image and has claimed that the Pakistan flag was Photoshopped into the photo.
3. First Draft NewsCheck Extension
First Draft is a nonprofit coalition of 9 partners including Google News Lab that aims to “raise awareness and address challenges relating to trust and truth in the digital age.” The coalition has released an extension called NewsCheck that helps fact check videos or photos through a detailed checklist and tracks the process of answers that were offered for validation as well as the result. It’s a simple 4-step process.
Also, it logs in through Twitter so you can see the handle of the person who went through all the verification checks and disputed or validated a photo or video.
4. Facebook’s Fact Checking Tool
To counter the problem of fake news articles being shared extensively on Facebook, the social media website has launched a tool that informs users that some fact checkers have disputed the article they’re reading or want to share.
Only fact checkers who are signed up to the code of principles stated by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies show up on the tool, but this list already includes fact checkers from across the world.
One of the problems with this tool is that if there is already a lack of trust in the mainstream fact checking websites, it may not serve the purpose of deterring sharing of fake news.
5. Google Translate
This may seem like a strange addition to this list, but it’s not. Many WhatsApp forwards or articles include messages in languages not understood by the recipient and this is followed by a translation. But instead of relying on the translated text of the message, you can just paste the text into Google translate and see what it says for yourself.
During the French presidential elections this year, a tweet claiming Al Qaeda was supporting Emmanuel Macron received a lot of shares.
The screenshot attached to the tweet showed an article from an Al Qaeda affiliated newspaper called Al Masra. However, the article wasn’t extending support to Macron ,but focused on the then presidential candidate’s visit to Algeria earlier in the year.