However you want to call it, rumors, spin, lies, disinformation, and bogus are not new phenomena. It has been around a lot longer than real news became a concept five hundred years ago. And it was not the Internet that first led to fake news. It was the printing press, however. But the major crime of the Internet is the fast-lightening speed of diffusion of misinformation. It takes seconds for those colorful and wild fake stores to go viral all over the globe.

No wonder the Collins Dictionary’s 2017 declared the term ‘fake news’ the word of the year. Much like a virus, fake news can wear down a person’s resistance and make them increasingly susceptible. The more you are exposed to a piece of fake news, the more likely you are infected and persuaded. The result? No less than 70 percent of readers find it challenging to distinguish real news from fake ones. This confusion leads to the perception that over 90 percent of all news reports are deceitful.

Fake News in the New Age of Covid-19

It took the pandemic just ten weeks to plunge our world into a panic. We lived in a world with no effective medications or vaccines available. Thus, the era of fake news messages has begun.

Social distancing made people found refuge on the Internet and social media apps. Since then, the rise of hoaxed, misleading information has reached a new frontier. Odds are you’ve heard some of those: ‘Place halved onion in the corner of your room to catch the Covid-19 germs’, or another popular one ‘The spread of Covid-19 is linked to 5G mobile networks’. It turns out eating chili peppers, or other spicy foods will not protect you from COVID. And to receiving blessings through the TV screen, you can safely say no.

No doubt, the pandemic has come to dominate the media. The wave of misinformation was so great that the authorities coined a word for it: “infodemic”. And the 2020 year was dubbed as the year of false news. If there’s an event, then chances are there’s misinformation. And you cannot have one without the other. The more the event captures people’s imagination, the greater the deal of misinformation. Yet, this time it goes another way. The one that comes with more unique challenges and dangers to the public.

Still, to identify and prevent fake news, it’s important to understand how it is spread and consumed. We’re at a time when knowing the facts could literally save your life. The bad news is the differences between fake news and official messages are very hard to get. Yet, the good news is you can learn how to observe the key rules of information hygiene.

PRNEWS.IO Reality Check: Understanding How People Get News and the Main Signs of Fake

PRNEWS.IO conducted a survey featuring over 130 respondents working in the field of PR, marketing, advertising, journalism, law, public relations, SMM, finance, and education. The idea behind the survey was to find out several How’s:

  • How do readers distinguish fake news from the real one?
  • How and where do people get information?
  • How much do they trust it?
The result of the survey showed that 40.2 percent of respondents learn news by visiting news sites. In turn, 35.9 percent are more likely to get information as a whole via social networks.

As the source of information, television is surely giving up its position. Thus, only 6.5 percent of respondents get news there. And that’s expected. Other sources of information are:

  • YouTube – 5.2%
  • Telegram – 3.9%
  • Forums – 3.3 %

An interesting fact: none of the respondents mentioned print media as the source of news.

No wonder. The fast-lightening speed that spreads the news through digital channels leaves no chance for a non-digital news source to compete today. Well, reading the news for the past few days is a good idea for nobody. Breaking updates on stories appear on the news feed nearly every second. Stop paying attention for even five minutes, and you risk missing something major.

When it comes to trust, 57.1 percent of the respondents take facts at face value. At the same time, 42.9 percent do fact-check first or refer to primary sources. And that’s good news.

With the increase in attention to fake news, more people doubt sharing information. Especially if not checked.

Thus, according to the results of the PRNEWS.IO survey, we can summarize the commonly used signs of fake news:

  • no official source/ reference to an “insider”/ “information from behind the scenes,” etc. – 29.7%
  • hyperbolized, absurd, too emotional headline – 24.3%
  • the obscure or suspicious domain of the site – 24.3%
  • anonymous material, no-name author, no information about them in the public domain – 13.5%
  • imposition of a certain point of view in the text, twisting, and falsifying facts – 2.7%.

How to Develop Antibodies to Fakes? 7 Recommendations that Could Help

In order to not get fake news out of control, make sure you follow several recommendations. Let’s count them:

  • #1 No judgments or drama

People want unbiased and balanced news. Accurate and reliable news outlets should reflect a range of views and try to be neutral. Distrust the news if the information message provokes emotions – panic, fear, anger, hatred, or pity. It’s up to you to decide. Not the news outlet.

  • #2 Think like a journalist

For a journalist, there’s no such thing as alternative facts. Real news tells a story in a neutral way. In contrast, fake news reports stories from someone’s point of view. To not let emotions take the best of you, separate facts from opinion.

Make sure the headline and the story match up. Real news doesn’t capture the attention with highly emotional claims. In contrast, the purpose of fake news is often to drive two groups apart, giving rise to conflict. See the headline in all capitals? You’d better skip it.

  • #3 If it matters, double-check it with a trusted source

Typically, fake news appears on just one site. A good rule of thumb is to use several news sources, including official news agencies. A third-rate platform is a big no-no. Thus, you’ll get the story covered from different angles. For an objective picture, read the news. When you watch it, you can’t think rationally. So you risk getting manipulated.

  • #4 Impersonation

Stories that impersonate a real person are a major technique in fake news. Want to spot a hundred percent fake news? Then skip stories that include ‘experts say…’ or ‘the military revealed the truth…’.

  • #5 Your opinion matters

It’s getting harder to tell what’s real and what’s not. But your opinion can help you with that. It affects decision-making and how you live your life. In the news, it’s important to understand if you are reading someone’s opinion about an event. Having a very different point of view is normal.

  • #6 Check for reliable evidence

An accurate news story is not a one-sided presentation. Instead, it includes plenty of facts, quotes from experts, and official statistics. Better yet, it comes with detailed and consistent eyewitness accounts from people on the scene. If these are missing, question the story!

  • #7 Question the quantity of stuff you consume

From time to time, it’s worth questioning the overall amount of information you consume. There’s nothing to fear if you stop for a moment. Be mindful of the story you read. Got any wish to check it for red flags? That’s OK. Informational detox will help you carve out space for more valuable information.