Combating fake news

Courtesy: Wiki Commons

Last week, Co-Media lab organised a workshop on identifying fake news for the staff of Radio Active community radio station and some of our own citizen journalists. Shree D N, Associate Editor of Citizen matters (Bengaluru) and a Google-certified Factcheck trainer conducted the workshop. Here, she shares a few tips about how each one of us can be a fact checker.  


Shree D N

Our social media is an echo chamber. We interact with people we like, ignore the rest, and share information that suit our worldview reinforcing the same set of beliefs repeatedly. This leads to polarisation, making conversations with people across ideologies impossible. To add to this, fake news and images also promote polarisation and lead to a world where binaries thrive along with narrow thoughts.

These were some of the thoughts in my mind when I conducted a workshop on identifying fake news for Radio Active staff and some citizen journalists. Being a frog in our own social media well can lead to fake news thriving in these spaces. If one knows how to navigate out the closed well to see the world in its real colours, separating facts from fiction becomes easier. The workshop was an attempt in demonstrating the usage of tools to navigate out of the proverbial well one gets trapped in often. The workshop aimed at showing few techniques (as listed below) to filter fact from fiction and demonstrate ways of busting fake news rather than ignoring it and moving on. Here are some of the tools and methods to debunk fake news.

Use image search

Creating fake news is as simple as using Photoshop. Thus, often when images are involved, figuring out fake news is as simple as figuring out if it was manipulated using Photoshop. The general tendency of a fake news creator is to modify easily available images or videos to suit his/her agenda. However, search engines on internet have image search facilities that make life easier for fact checkers. This is the best way to find out all the different ways a particular image was used on the internet in the past. This can also give us an idea if a particular image was manipulated or not.

If you think its fake news, check the website that’s publishing it

Separating fact from fiction is a skill a fact-checker needs to master. Mostly, fake news gets circulated through fake news websites. It makes sense to check the credentials of the website where that particular piece of news is published. There are websites to find out publicly available data about the owners or managers of the websites, which are used by fact checkers to figure out who is spreading the fake news.

Parody or not? Verified or not?

Many social media handles engaged in satire or parody are often mistaken to be the real accounts of personalities that the former tries to parody. Twitter and Facebook verify accounts of many famous personalities by a blue tick. Before hitting the share or retweet button, it helps to check if the content being shared is by the verified account or the parody one.

The internet never forgets!

Once something goes live on the internet, it is saved in many forms, including google web cache, archives and other records. This is particularly helpful in an event of of content getting deleted owing to external pressure, censorship etc. This feature also helps recover lost content. If you want to save an online document, website, photographs for posterity, you could use Wayback machine for archiving purposes.

Finally, do remember, when something is too good to be true, always verify. When something is too scary to be true, do the same. Happy fact checking!