Sunday, October 1, 2017

6 Ways on How To Decode Fake

First and foremost let us define fake news.

Fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.[1] Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention. [Source]

In the wake of many publication portals from websites, blogs, video log, Whatsapp messages, social media posts (Twitters, Facebook, etc.), email campaigns, etc. The question is how would you decode a fake news in this era of technological disruption? There are many new innovative ways to share real time news and on the flip side different ways to distort the meaning, gone are the days when newspaper and television were the main media for breaking news.

I hereby would like to share with you some of the skills I have acquired over time since 2000 when I first started using a computer and the internet in general. These tips aren't specific to any platform but they cut across many subjects for example scholarship prospects, awards, literatures, opinion post on social, economical and political situation among others.

The list is from my collection of Learn To Learn routines (L2L). Ok, here we go! 

  1. Check the date of publications. In some instance outdated news might be shared as current happening. As much as it did happen, the expressed intention as shared to be current makes it “fake news”. An example is where people want to instill fear in others, especially in a politically tensed situation where old images of conflict might be shared as current happening. The best way is to Google the information before reading or sharing further.
  2. Check the authorship. This requires a deeper search to understand the credibility of the author's point of view. Some of the questions to ask; are they an expert in the said subject? Is it a personal story or a generalized point of view? how many articles have they published? even though the quantitative part isn't much an issue, but it will help you check for consistency, what is the underlying tone of the message? is it meant to scare, make money or inform. Check if it from a credible company and go the next level of searching what are they dealing with, who's in their team etc. Generally check as much meta-data as you can for authenticity.
  3.  What is the history of the platform. Check if it's a trusted source and don’t forget to go back in the history. Run the 4W 1H test (Why, When, Who, What and How). Having any publication online doesn’t mean it is a real deal, likewise having a big following doesn't necessary mean it's authentic.
  4. Check the intended purpose. Some people are paid to make sensational publications in the interest of making money through advertising their products. There is a lot of distraction in the society leave alone on the internet, to dissect what is fake or authentic you have to stay focused before finding yourself in areas that wasn't primary intention.
  5. Check with a friend before you commit. It helps to cross check with your network before you commit especially where you have to pay or even send sensitive personal information. Another valuable asset is your time it doesn't make any sense submitting your application without getting a clear timeline of the application process. A good example of best practice, I have come across many fellowship program share their timelines and what to expect during the program.
  6. Check the reference and contact. If anything isn't clear, I would advise that you seek for more information before taking the next step. Check who else supports the program either as a partner or a sponsor and check for citations. In terms of winning cash ultimate caution is required, the rule of the thumb is you should ask yourself did you apply for the competition? Why you and what lead to your nomination? Are they asking for money for you receive your award? Think twice and be on higher alert. 
In conclusion, I would recommend a course in cyber security and new/social media starting from the primary school levels because in future we expect a lot to take place in the technology world that will impact the way we live. Unfortunately the speed at which we bridge the gaps in learning the impact is still slow especially in informal settlements and rural settlements. All said, sometimes you might use more than one of the listed options to authenticate your information. What other ways would you suggest in decoding fake news in general from your experience? Pleas share under the comment section

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