Using Moderation to Spot Fake News

September 20, 2017 | 

There is no doubt the internet is the greatest source information. Despite the easy access and convenience, information on the internet cannot always be taken at face value. Fake news has always been a way to acquire attention, drive traffic, and cause intentional controversy. The internet is filled with these stories, which makes it even more important to moderate content as the vast majority of news is gained through digital platforms such as social media.

Using Moderation to Spot Fake News

When we see shared news on social media, we tend to eliminate the idea of fact checking. For instance, we trust the news our aunt shared on her social media page about ‘the sudden cure for cancer,' or how our friend shared a political ‘scandal’ that only a particular site has published. Even if the article was nicely written or not, it may have been believable enough for someone to hit the share button, giving us the impression that ‘because they believe it, maybe I should too.’

Anyone can post anything online, and that could include your own company forum for a public platform. Whatever they write, true or not, someone will believe it.

Content moderation helps us filter fake news. Facebook, for example, has made efforts in distinguishing fake news from real through third party fact checkers, users themselves (they can report and flag fake news), restriction on ads, and new algorithms. But you cannot just rely on just these. Individuals can use content moderation to spot fake from real by just knowing these few tips:

Examine the site quality.

Obvious things like pictures of inappropriately dressed women, big body parts and outrageous claims, may be tell-tale signs, but you need to take it further. Check the website’s ‘About Us’ page to find out who they have affiliations with and who they are. Do a background check on the other affiliated sites, know who they are and what they do. If the page does not exist or require you to register before you can open it, then you have to question why there is a lack of transparency there.

Real news sites are transparent, giving their readers a brief background on who they are and their trusted connections. Sources will have their own bios and tools like ‘Moz Domain Authority’, and ‘Alexa Ranking’, can help you check the authority status of a site.

Look at the headline and byline closely.

Commonly known as ‘Click Bait’ for a good reason. Fake news often has outrageous claims with all capital letters like “SCIENTIST MADE PILL TO CURE CANCER, ANYONE CAN AFFORD” or my favourite “YOU WONT BELIEVE…”. All designed to catch attention and make you click (often first opening a paid pop-up advertisement). Scan through the headlines of other news stories on the site, as they may not be as outrageous as the immediate one. But if the other stories talk a lot about sex and celebrities, it may be fake.

Besides the headline, look at the byline, then check on the author's background and credibility. If the article was written by a credible source, then the story might be true; but if the author has no legitimate experience or the article was credited to some anonymous user or another site and has a disclaimer, then it may be time to speculate.

Real news sites usually give a sense of seriousness towards their publications, with a diversity of stories, and all their authors have checkable backgrounds. Legitimate news sites want to show readers their integrity and how they own their work.

Check the supporting sources and published date.

Look through the date when the news was written. The news may have been old, written a few years back and has only found itself emerging towards the surface once again. But if it is up-to-date, dig deep and find the source of the article and who has made a claim for, say, finding the immediate cure to cancer. If the sources seem unreliable, then go to reputable news sites and, if those sites are running the same story and citing the same source as the site where you found the news, look for other legitimate news sites doing their report. If the legitimate news sites are doing the same report, chances are that the story may be true.

Look at the URLs.

URL is one of the easiest ways to spot fake stories, that is, if they are under a strange domain name. Domain names ending with a “.co” or “.ru” are usually red flags. Other sites will try to imitate popular websites, using nearly the same name and misspelling a word or two, or incorporating the name with their own. Long and complicated URLs are another thing to watch out for.

Beware if the story is too funny, interesting or angering.

The goal for posting a fake news story is to attract readers to check a site. One way to do this is by writing compelling stories, using satire and being more biased rather than being factual. If you find yourself reading through the whole article and finding it too funny, bizarre, interesting, or it is triggering your anger and is longer than a usual news article, then you need to check the authenticity.

Fake news takes advantage of the reader’s emotions. Perpetrators make their stories skeptical, opinionated and biased enough to cloud the reader's better judgment and make them click the share button before evaluating the article properly. If an article is playing with your emotions rather than giving you the proper information, there is a good chance that the story is fake, or at least bias which can be just as dangerous (or more so).

Real news stays faithful to the facts, giving more actual information rather than personal opinions. We do not just get to know one opinion but the different sides of a story, letting us gain knowledge and a better understanding rather than a bombardment of emotions or promises.

To sum it up, content moderation is a great tool for filtering information. This can also help in making sure people, especially the younger audience, who get information on social media or anywhere online will be able to gain truthful information rather than just believe bent facts and opinions. Content moderation enables individuals to make smarter judgments as to what and who to believe.