Throughout the day, a lot of half-true or even completely false news is widely shared across all social media platforms. It is appearing on social media to influence political opinions or instill fear in internet users. It is necessary to recognise whether an image, message or video, is genuine or not.
The US human rights organisation Freedom House warns of an alarming increase in its latest report. More and more governments are faking news, hiring bots and paying commentators. Accordingly, 30 countries now operate targeted manipulations on the Internet. This manipulation consists in most cases of paid commentators, trolls, bots, fake news websites, and targeted propaganda. Governments go to great lengths to keep the Internet under control.
It is impossible to completely prevent fake news and propaganda. You do not have to be a pro to spot fake news. You only have to pay attention to certain things when it comes to news and articles:
- Much opinion, little content? If a message is very exaggerated, has little content, no context, and an opinion of a particular political or religious direction, you should check whether this message (especially in the form of memes) contains any credible source or not. They normally provide a barely reliable source, or no source at all.
- Where does the message come from?
It is important to take a look at the page where the source comes from. Many sites that spread fake news hide the identity of their creators, such as Zero Hedge, Bare Naked Islam, and The Religion of Peace.
- Is the message found on other pages?
If a message is found only on this one page or on other pages that also tends to publish only messages against a particular political or religious direction, one can assume a strong chance of fake news.
- Do the pictures match the message?
The pictures are real, but the news was invented. For example: Sometimes they use fake photos or photos that have been taken out of context. Therefore, check where the photos come from, and if they are still used in their original context.
- Is it just satire?
Check if the message may be a deliberate joke, satire, or a parody of current affairs.
- Look out for fake news accounts These fake accounts use the logos of news organisations. They are easy to spot as they do not have a blue verified check next to their names. They also have relatively few followers. It is also a good idea to take a look at the accounts’ bios, to see if they clearly state they are parody accounts, a technique that allows the users behind the accounts to protect themselves and argue that readers were warned.
- Beware of old news being recirculated Fake news can sometimes appear in the form of old, legitimate news articles being reshared months or years later, after a major event. Make sure to always verify news articles that are shared soon after a major event, particularly the date of publication.
- Do a reverse image search A Reverse image search reveals where a photo comes from, and if it has already appeared on the web. You can use Google Images, Tin-Eye, or Yandex.
- Listen for potentially edited videos
A crucial question therefore is; why do some people spread such fake news?
- It is easier to get new followers.
- More opportunities to interact with users.
- Images convey feelings and attitudes.
- The profile uses e-commerce features to earn money. Since Fake News focuses on emotions, fake or out of context pictures and videos are much better suited for these (scamming) purposes.
- The media and governments are pro-war, and there is no better way than dividing the Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities until public unity is completely broken, and people go off to fight bogus wars.
They have two goals in the end. The authors want to earn money from it using content that appeals to a desire, or a fear (in this case, Islam). The writer does not care about the content. It is about showing ads or incorporating advertising links effectively. For governments, it is used as an excuse to illegally invade a country by gaining public approval.
Usually you can divide fakes and hoaxes into three categories:
- Manipulated or completely fake
- Out of context
- Real images with false claims in textual or audio form
Here is a following example:
The 2017 article claims a fifteen-year-old girl Christian girl was injured after reportedly being thrown from a three-story window by angry Muslim residents in an Egyptian village in the Minya province.
However, the photo featured in the article does not depict this girl. The image shows a woman who jumped from a fifth story window in Shanghai in 2011. She was not thrown from the window by a Muslim mob or anybody else. The woman reportedly had a mental illness and jumped because she mistakenly believed somebody was trying to hurt her. She survived the fall with no serious injuries.
The Courier Mail also reported on the incident and used the same image featured in the Liberty Magazine article. According to the Courier Mail report, the woman had been diagnosed with schizophrenia just days before the incident.
Another example is when photos are posted on Facebook to show the alleged garbage of recent (Muslim) refugees in Paris, France:
The picture is actually from 2015, and was taken in Paris at an illegal Roma Gypsy camp which was razed to the ground in 2016. Here is the Daily Mail article: The Third World shanty town… in the heart of Paris: Roma gypsies create their own village built from rubbish and scrap in one of Europe’s great cities.
If you always have these points in mind before you share a dubious source, you should stay skeptical, and only share information that you believe is credible. Especially for social media, it is necessary to apply: “think first, then share.” The perceived credibility of a source is critical to how it influences opinions, which is a favourite for scammers.
Fake news spreads particularly fast on social networks like Facebook or Twitter and is a problem for society, politics and also our security. The apparent goal seems to draw in as many clicks as possible in order to make money with the ads on the sites and draw us closer to World War III.
Do not fall for sites like these!