• Adami Geldenhuys

How to Spot Fake News and Check Facts

Updated: Apr 6

Long before the era of social media and the internet George Bernard Shaw said ‘Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance’.

By now all of us are familiar with the term fake news. It is not a new concept but it is certainly increasing in volume. Bogus stories are easy to distribute via social media platforms, messaging apps and emails. Remember the so-called announcements about when the President will address the nation about the lockdown stages and all the not so true infographics about the stage announcements? It seems that the Covid-19 pandemic is providing fertile ground for spreading fake news. Advancements in technology provide lots of opportunities to create fake news. An example is deepfake videos. A recent article in Popular Mechanics by Kristina Libby entitled Deepfakes Are Amazing. They're Also Terrifying for Our Future provides more information on this issue.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) compiled a useful infographic with eight simple steps on ‘How to spot fake news’. The infographic is available at the end of the article but can also be downloaded at https://www.ifla.org/publications/node/11174. The infographic is based on the article by Eugen Kiely and Lori Robertson, entitled How to Spot Fake News. Details on the eight steps to identify fake news are available in the article.

One of the eight steps mentioned in the Infographic is to Ask an Expert. This step refers to fact checkers. The website of International Fact-Checking Network, a unit of the Poynter Institute at https://www.poynter.org/ifcn/, provides valuable information on this subject. Wikipedia provides a list of fact checkers at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fact-checking_websites.

Africa Check, at https://africacheck.org/, is Africa's first independent fact-checking organisation. A checklist of fact-checking tips is available on the Africa Check website at https://africacheck.org/how-to-fact-check/tips-and-advice/. “What’s Crap on WhatsApp,” is a voice note podcast produced by Africa Check and podcast company Volume. The podcast is sent directly to subscribers on Whatsapp. It summarises the latest viral rumours submitted to Africa Check for evaluation.

We are unfortunately all exposed to misinformation and unsubstantiated stories. Critical evaluation and assessment of content are becoming essential. A healthy dose of scepticism is necessary to determine whether what you see and read can be trusted. Think before you believe what you see, read or hear, and certainly before you share.


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