It feels like everyday there’s a new and bigger story gracing the front of our newspapers, blogs, and social media timelines. The accessibility and shareability of news thanks to social media, while overall a positive thing, does result in false information being shared.
It’s more important than ever not to take any information at face value and ensure you’re reading information from legitimate sources. Zandile Mashaba and Glady Matasane are part of the team behind Activism and Citizen Journalism through Media, a course from the University of Witwatersrand, where these skills are taught and put to use throughout the course. We asked them what due diligence we can do to ensure a news story or social post is credible before sharing, what are the telltale signs something is not credible, and how can we feel good and confident about the posts we share.
Ways to Evaluate if a News Source is Credible
Don’t just be moved by the headline – read the entire article/content and determine if it is factual. You can also go on Google to determine if the story has been told by other reliable news sites. Big and factual stories or news should probably be shared on most reliable news sites. If not, that could be a tell-tale sign that they aren’t credible. Verify the author of the article – you can check LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to see if their profile mentions their workplace or previous articles they’ve written. Finally, you can check the source’s website and contact information to check if they are operating, or use a fact-checking platform like FactCheck to verify the story.
Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Sharing a Social Post
With a lot of events happening around the world, fake news reporting and sharing have been on the rise. Ask yourself the following questions before sharing posts and retweeting:
- Who is the author of the content? Check their username, profile, location, number of followers, and when they joined Twitter or Facebook.
- Check if the accounts of reliable news sources are also posting and sharing the story. Big and factual stories should probably trend under a hashtag. Check whether the post has a hashtag, then search that hashtag to check who is supporting or retweeting the post.
- Verify if the images are accurate, for example, if they correspond with the content and location of the post. Some people may use old pictures of similar events from a different country to communicate. So, verify and verify.
- Verify or fact-check the information before sharing: you can either Google or use a fact-checking site to confirm the details of the story.
- Before posting, make sure that you are confident and have no doubt about the accuracy of your post and that it is the kind of material that would not put you in trouble at work or with the law.
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