Have we had enough fake news yet?

In the wake of the U.S. presidential election, “Fake News” has become a catchall phrase to describe news stories with little or no journalistic integrity. They are what Stephen Colbert used to call, “Truthy,” by sounding like a real issue, but offering a false narrative to support its sensationalist premise.

Where does fake news get the oxygen it needs to propagate online and in the minds of readers?

From social media, of course.

We’ve all heard how Facebook deceived readers by allowing fake news stories to enter its news feed. I believe it, even though I never read Facebook’s Trending stories. But what about the stories shared by my friends?

Just this morning, I see that my Facebook friends shared stories from USuncut.com, rawstory.com, newcenturytimes.com, and occupydemocrats.com. Most likely, these stories were shared with them before they re-shared each one.

A quick look at fakenewschecker.com tells me all of these sites are considered untrustworthy for one reason or another. Ooops!

This unattributed image found on the site Imgur.com provides an interesting, if debatably accurate, chart of online news outlets categorized by bias and credibility. Via WildYucatanMan

So now that it seems everyone in the world has heard the term, “fake news,” and elections have possibly been swayed because of it, isn’t it high time we ignore this kind of devious journalism into oblivion?

I think if content producers and curators and social media influencers just stop sharing irresponsible hyperbolic dreck on the Internet, then fake news will lose legs and eventually fade away.

We can’t stop fake news from being produced and placed, but we can sure reduce its spread online.

How to Avoid Sharing Fake News

Read the damn story first

Take the time to read the post and make some value judgements. See if the text actually illuminates the racy headline, and whether or not you feel manipulated by the writing. Does it include any evidence to support the arguments?

Plus, if the story uses bad grammar and too may bold fonts and caps, it’s probably fakey.

Only share stories from reputable sources

Have you heard of the site you’re reading? Is it the online version of a daily newspaper? Or does it end in a “.lo” or “com.co” which are fakey offshoots of reputable URLs? Like: MSNBC.co or DrudgeReport.com.co.

If you’re unsure about the source’s credibility, cross search the topic to see if other, more reputable sites are reporting the same thing, and see what context they use.

Research unfamiliar sources

There are plenty of sites maintaining databases of suspect sites. Check out fakenewswatch.com, snopes.com, fakenewschecker.com to look up sites you suspect might be messing with reality.

Avoid sources with improper attribution

When you ask yourself, “Who writes this stuff?” you damn well better have a sufficient answer before sharing. Read the author’s bio and ignore anything lacking one.

It’s not enough to believe a story composed by nameless sources behind the scenes. An author bio is one way to be sure the story wasn’t written by an automated post bot.

Avoid sponsored posts

Sponsored posts are just ads wrapped with information. While being hotbeds of misinformation, they unfortunately appear on credible sites because they produce revenue. They are usually clumped in sidebars under banners like: “Trending Now,” or “Most Popular,” but are always labeled “Ads by___”

Don’t click on sponsored post links! Ignore the urge to view “25 Photos Republicans Don’t Want You to See” or to read “Why Donald Trump Avoids Talking About His Daughter Tiffany.” That is not news, its fake.

“Sponsored Posts” should not be confused with “Related Posts”, which are stories posted by the same site.

Also, please avoid placing Sponsored Posts widgets on your WordPress site unless you actively control which outlets are in the feed.

Support Real News

Finally, I advise everyone to support credible news outlets who pay their journalists to get their stories right every time. Sources like, the New York Times, LA Times, the Guardian, Globe and Mail, Washington Post, The Hill, Politico, Al Jeezera, etc.

One reason I have made a policy not to share Huffington Post stories is because they don’t pay most of the bloggers that contribute to their 18 international sites, while Arianna and AOL laughs all the way to the bank. Besides, a lot of their news is overly sensational, sexist and banal, so why bother?

So, please help stop the spread of fake news online!

Kissing a journalist couldn’t hurt.

Read more: How Fake News Affects PR