Key questions for a 'false news assessment'

To assess whether a piece of news is deliberately false or true, there are several key questions that should be raised every time.

Is the website real and trustworthy?

If an outlet published a false news story before, there's a high chance that it will do it again. You can conduct a quick search on the web to inform yourself about the 'history' of the outlet. By doing so, you can also check whether the news website is in fact what it claims to be. Some outlets use parts of trustworthy, well-known news outlets in their names. Checking the URL carefully as well as the layout of the website and the 'About' section can help.

Is the author real and trustworthy?

Similar to the credibility of the entire website, the author also matters. Do they even exist? Check the name and the reputation carefully with a quick search on the internet.

Does the headline really support the content?

Headlines matter a lot on the internet as they raise attention on social media and search engines. But do they support the content of the article, or do they rather exploit emotions to make you engage with the content on the social media? Read a story carefully and do not only share a post because of a catchy headline.

Are the photos real and put in the right context?

False news stories often contain (slightly) manipulated photos or photos that are taken out of context. An image reverse search can help you learn more about the real origin of a photo and its context.

Are the sources accurate and trustworthy?

A trustworthy story has reliable sources. You should check whether the linked sources really prove what the author claims and whether the linked sources are trustworthy or deliberately false.

Do the dates make sense?

Stories can contain timelines that do not really make sense. Also, some stories are already outdated, but are pushed back again to social media from time to time. You may conduct a quick internet search about the story and check if it is already quite old. 

Is the story a joke?

Some stories might not be real, and do not intend to deceive users but rather to entertain. You should check the source and whether it is known for parody and satire.

Are you critical enough with your own biases?

Every person has their own beliefs and values. As great as this is, it can also be taken advantage of by malicious actors. Some stories fit perfectly within human biases, so people want to believe them. Be critical of yourself and your own judgements.

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