- Today, every info imaginable is at your fingertips. You can google anything you want, from a summary of the recent presidential debate to the world’s rarest colors. While readily available, these information are not filtered for accuracy and we users turn into Chicken Little over the latest hoax, rumor, or scam! This is why it is important to evaluate the source or information. Below are tips to help you fact check the internet.
Your First Source Is Not Enough
No matter who wrote the article or where you found it, it’s wise to double-check it against other sources. The idea here it to find a news outlet that released the original report, not from anonymous sources. You can do this by searching official websites and/or checking some printed sources like books and newspapers. If you find the same information in these sources, the information is more likely to be accurate.
Start with Sites You Know
Information from official government, news, and educational sites are always the most reputable ones. If one had to choose between getting your news from The Philippine Daily Inquirer or Cracked, a sane person would choose PDI, because it’s a name people know and trust. If you want to know the summary of the recent presidential candidates’ debate, visiting your most trusted news outlet’s website is a great place to start. If you want to check symptoms of Zika virus, go to the official site of DOH and see if their website provides the information you’re looking for.
Determine the credibility of the author
I once wrote a news online, saying that my favorite boyband, while on tour here in the country, recruited me to be their tour guide. I got hate letters when it was supposed to be a fan fiction! Anyone can publish anything they wish and it is often difficult to determine authorship of online sources, and even if the author is listed, he or she may not always represent him or herself honestly, or he or she may represent opinions as fact. If you’re looking for information about scriptwriting, a well-known writer who has been practicing for years is a more reliable source. To determine the author’s credentials, check personal homepages on the Web, government directory entries and information retrieved through search engines. You can also check print sources. You can also check the writer’s social-media accounts and look for a blue check mark near their name on their Facebook or Twitter pages. This means their occupation has been verified and they are who they say.
Also, ask yourself these questions before believing the author:
Is the name of the author/creator on the page?
Are his/her credentials listed (occupation, years of experience, position or education)?
Is the author qualified to write on the given topic? Why?
Is there contact information, such as an email address, somewhere on the page?
Is there a link to a homepage?
If there is a link to a homepage, is it for an individual or for an organization?
If the author is with an organization, does it appear to support or sponsor the page?
What does the domain name/URL reveal about the source of the information, if anything?
If the owner is not identified, what can you tell about the origin of the site from the address?
Evaluate sources (including WikiPedia!)
Note that unlike information that can be found in printed sources, information from the internet are not regulated for quality or filtered for accuracy. However, knowing the motive behind the page’s creation can help you judge its content.
Ask these questions first:
Who is the intended audience?
Scholarly audience or experts?
General public or novices?
If not stated, what do you think is the purpose of the site? Is the purpose to:
Inform or Teach?
Explain or Enlighten?
Sell a Product?
A reputable source includes hyperlinks to research, while a fake site offers no backup and may have spelling and grammatical errors.
Check if the photos are photoshopped.
Checking such photos is easy. Drag the suspicious photo into Google Images’ search box. This way, you can verify the subject of the photo and where it has appeared online. Also, keep an eye out for details that don’t match up. (Example: One part of the image is crisp; other areas are blurry.)
Go to sites that debunk internet hoaxes.
Before going off on a Facebook rant, check the news’ validity against neutral, intelligent sources. Here are a few: PolitiFact.com, FactCheck.org, Snopes, About Urban Legends, and Break the Chain. Take these as granddaddies of all fact-checking sites. Some of the worst chain spams even quote them with an embedded link to give their email an added level of authenticity. Of course, a site like Snopes, has been known to be wrong and has changed its listings on several occasions. It has also become commercialized over the years, but it’s still a very complete site.