Why you really need to start fact checking everything you read

If you’ve been on the internet at all in the last few years, you’ve likely seen fake news. It is everywhere, from social media websites and blogs to inboxes and text messages. In fact, more than 86% of global internet users believe they have been exposed to misinformation online. While the existence of so much misinformation is mind-boggling, its widespread sharing is even more concerning. False information is shared faster and more frequently than true facts.

These days, fact-checking is more important than ever. While some websites have cracked down on misinformation, it’s up to us to verify facts for ourselves. So why fact check? Keep reading to learn about the importance of stopping misinformation and how you can do your part to prevent the dissemination of fake news.

Person reading a newspaper
Roman Kraft/Unsplash

The fake news epidemic

The internet is riddled with false information, manipulated content, and fake news sites. Anyone can post a story on a website or social media platform and pass it off as the truth. As technology continues to develop, it gets more difficult to tell which sites are trustworthy and which are not. Website designers often take great pains to create sites that appear, at least at first glance, just as reliable as real news sites.

Further, the prevalence of fake news has had severe real-world consequences. According to a 2019 survey from Statista, 42% of adults in the United States trust the press less than they did a year earlier. False information can be personally damaging, too, permanently damaging reputations.

The problem is especially prominent on social media websites. These platforms are designed to promote the most sensational, popular content, regardless of whether that information is accurate or not. As it is shared more, misinformation spreads faster and wider on these platforms than anywhere on the web. One 2019 study found that falsehoods are 70% more likely to be retweeted on Twitter than the truth. These tweets also reach 1,500 people six times faster. Unfortunately, the issue is only getting worse. According to a report on NewsGuard, websites that produce unreliable news more than doubled their number of social media interactions over the past year.

What social media companies are doing to help

With such an expansive problem, social media companies have recently tried to take matters into their own hands. While these efforts come after years of the unchallenged spread of misinformation on the platforms, it gives hope that the issue will be taken seriously from here on out. You can read more about some of the largest tech companies’ misinformation policies here:

Group of people looking at laptops
Le Wagon/Unsplash

How to identify false information

With so much misinformation out there, it can be hard to know what to trust. Thankfully, fake news is pretty easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for. Here are some methods you can use to identify and avoid false information online.

Check the source: Before reading or sharing an article, review the name of the publication and the domain. Read the “About Us” page and do a quick Google search to see if any other reputable organizations cite this source. Keep in mind that if the domain ends with something funky like “.com.co,” it’s likely not a reliable source.

Consider the quality of the article: A trustworthy news source won’t publish an article that’s full of spelling and grammar errors or sensational and dramatic language. Be sure to check the date of the article as well. While certain facts may have been true in 2017, they might not be true today.

Use fact-checking websites: There are tons of online resources dedicated to determining whether a story is true or not. If you come across a story or source that you want to double-check, research it on PolitiFact, Snopes, or FactCheck.org.

Be wary of anything that causes an emotional reaction: Misinformation is designed to get the largest amount of people to click on it and share it. They often do this by crafting headlines that inspire outrage or enthusiasm, and in turn, lack nuance that’s crucial to understanding the whole situation.

Fake news is everywhere, but you can still do your part to help stop the spread. By being vigilant, looking for the signs, and investigating stories before you spread them, you can help minimize the impact fake news has on our country.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

Editors' Recommendations