Facebook has broadened its campaign to raise awareness about fake news, by publishing adverts in the UK press. The ads, in papers including The Times, The Guardian and Daily Telegraph, carry a list of 10 things to look out for when deciding if a story is genuine.
They include checking the article date and website address, as well as making sure it isn’t intended as satire.
“People want to see accurate information on Facebook and so do we,” said Simon Milner, Facebook’s UK director of policy. “To help people spot false news we are showing tips to everyone on Facebook on how to identify if something they see is false.”
Facebook’s ten steps for spotting fake news
- Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
- Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
- Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their “About” section to learn more.
- Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
- Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
- Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
- Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
- Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true.
- Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
- Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.
The spread of fake news across social media was accused by some of influencing the US presidential election in 2016.
Facebook has not gone so far as to accept that but its latest report acknowledges that there was some activity which “required action”.
With the UK election just a month away today there is added pressure to crack down on it in Britain.
The creators of fake news make money because of the clicks on the ads they carry. Google and Facebook say they are committed to blocking them from using ad services but they are still popping up.
It’s interesting and perhaps a sign of Facebook’s older membership that it has chosen traditional print media to help spread its message in the UK.
The ten tips are sound advice and will be well-known to journalists already as standard checks. The difficulty is that if the link pops up in your Facebook news feed because it’s been shared by one of your friends or relatives, you’re likely to be more inclined to accept it at face value.
The power of word-of-mouth as a marketing tool is well known to both marketing professionals and scammers alike.