Spotting disinformation

Spotting false information online can be exceedingly difficult. The content may combine factual claims with exaggerations or distort aspects of the truth rather than create outright falsifications. Sometimes satire or parody can be confused for disinformation.

Here are basic techniques that will help unveil disinformation

  • Search online for the information or claim: There may be a fact checker who has addressed this content on fact checking websites like Snopes or PolitiFact. If not, check if the claim is widely reported by other credible outlets. If there are few corroborating sources it is likely that the information is false.
  • Grammatical errors: because disinformation is not checked by an editor it often contains grammatical errors which would be caught by the producer of legitimate information.
  • Scrutinize the content: often disinformation is designed to affect the emotions of viewers. It is important to be objective about the content and whether it is something you would like to be true rather than actually is true. Take time to analyze the assertions that are being made and the likelihood that they are true.
  • Scrutinize the source: examine what other claims are being made by the account. If they routinely post provocative content or claim to have expertise in a variety of unrelated areas then be cautious. Check for signs that are inauthentic such as excessive reposting or affiliation with other suspicious accounts.
  • Reverse search images: If there is an image you can check if it comes from another source (eg. a stockphoto or a photo of a celebrity). Using RevEye will allow you to conduct a reverse image search and find the source of the picture. When you see the source of the photo you can see in what other contexts the image has been used.

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