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Social media is a haven for peddlers of fake news. Here are five tips that will help with protecting yourself from the massive scale of misinformation.

There's a popular quote among journalists that goes—"If someone says it's raining, and another person says it's dry, it's not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out the window and find out which is true." 

In the digital age where everyone has a device that can access social media in a snap, the likelihood of believing in fake news increases rapidly. Today, even consumers of information share the same responsibilities with those who deliver them. 

So what is fake news? How do we keep ourselves from falling into its trap? 

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What Is Fake News?

Fake news is defined as an entirely invented story designed to make people believe something false. This type of material is often promulgated to promote a certain person, product, or visit a particular website. 

Stories that have some truth, but are not 100 per cent accurate can also be filed under fake news. For example, an article that only quoted parts of what a public figure said can give false impressions of their meaning.

Who Makes Them?

In the Philippines where chismis (gossip) culture is prevalent, it can be assumed that easy access to social media plays a big part in the evolution of this behaviour. Every day, people are given the power to relay information online regardless if it is real or not. 

The Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS) also theorised that those who spread fake news earn profit from their agenda-driven stories. "Those who operate fake news websites want as many visitors to their sites as possible. While some may want their visitors to see the content and have it influence their political values, others simply want internet users to click on them, which often takes users to a website where users see advertising," the group explained.

"When a website has ads on it, those visits pay the website owner advertising revenue. Both of these motivations—ideological and commercial—need as many people to click on the website link and visit as possible," it added.

Below are sure-fire ways to gatekeep information: 

1 / 5

Read beyond the headline

According to FactCheck.Org, one sure way to determine if a piece of information is fake is if it has a headline that drew your attention. "If a provocative headline [draws] your attention, read a little further before you decide to pass along the shocking information. Even in legitimate news stories, the headline doesn’t always tell the whole story."

When you chance upon headlines that use sensational or provocative words begging you to click on them, there is a huge possibility that these are mere click baits or bogus stories. 

Related: The Pandemic Accelerated Online Learning, But It Also Exposed Its Inequalities

2 / 5

Research and compare

If you can scroll your social media feeds for hours, a little time dedicated to research wouldn't hurt! To find out if the news you're consuming is correct, visit other websites or author pages that talk about the same topic. If all the information disclosed matches that of the other official news outlet, chances are, it is correct. 

Be mindful of the news portals you use for fact comparisons. In the Philippines, there are at least fourteen trusted news companies in 2021.

3 / 5

Check the source or author

If you have come across a story from a source or person you have never heard before, do some digging. Check if the author has published reliable information elsewhere, double-check the platforms where he or she publishes stories. 

Be critical of the information you consume too! Research if the people cited in the story are credible— did the author quote the right people?

More from Tatler: Born To The Broadsheet: Inquirer's Thelma San Juan On Her Career In Lifestyle Journalism

4 / 5

Do not miss the date

Unlike newspapers, old stories on social media are not filed under the archives cabinet. They may be re-shared on social media feeds to distort live events. For instance, a story published years back can come back and claim that it is related to current events. 

5 / 5

Develop a critical mindset

In the end, the best tactic to defeat propagators of false information is to develop a critical mindset. A credible news story will include plenty of quotes and facts from survey data, official statistics, reliable sources, and experts. Common sense will also be useful in identifying real and fake news; if the details of events sound off or are unlikely to happen, the best move is to fact-check.