News and Society

10 tips for spotting fake news


Since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, a parallel wave of false information has been sweeping through, described as a “massive infodemic” by the World Health Organization. How to spot this fake news, and how to avoid disseminating it?

To protect themselves and their loved ones from this anxiety-provoking false information that feeds the general state of panic of the population, the Rotonde has put on its inspector’s outfit, in order to find some tools to better identify and check fake news. Here are a few.

1. Beware of word of mouth

The first question to ask yourself, when receiving information, is “ how did this information reach me? ”. I received a text from a cousin who has a friend who is an intern in medical practice, and who saw on a Facebook page that …

The longer the road between the source information and you, the more likely it is to doubt it. Indeed, one of the weapons of the rumor is the number of people who contribute to it. Favor information received directly and without an intermediary, from serious media: World Health Organization, a government website, information media such as, Le Monde, France 2, France Inter…
Beware of word of mouth


2. Look beyond the title 

The first challenge of fake news is to get you to read it. And what makes you want to click to learn more than a sensational headline? Oftentimes, fake news will start with a high-profile headline.

Sometimes it will be written in all capitals, sometimes with exclamation marks, or sensational wording, such as “RESEARCHERS FIND A MIRACLE CURE FOR CANCER !!!”. Faced with such a call to click, mistrust is in order.

The best way to know if the information is true is to read the entire article.

3. Identify the source of the information

If you decide that the article deserves your attention, there are three key points to consider: who wrote it, on which site, and when?

Faced with information signed by an eminent specialist in quantum physics, you can legitimately ask yourself who is this author who seems to know better than anyone what he is talking about. You can search a search engine for their name, laboratory, or establishment, and verify that the author of the information is an existing and reliable source.

Some sites, like Le Gorafi, offer satire articles, and publish false parody information in an attempt to make people laugh. If in the case of Gorafi, their vocation for humor is assumed and completely transparent, this is not the case for all the sites that broadcast fake news. So, before you start reading the content of the article, you can find out about the host of the info .

Another detail to consult: the publication date of the article. Although written (and shared) with good intentions, an article that is several days, weeks or months old can quickly become totally out of date. It is therefore always best to consult recent sources, or at least to verify that there has not been a change since the publication of the article.

4. Beware of flawed authority arguments

Very often, fake news is accompanied by a reference to a person supposed to be an authority figure: an eminent specialist in the field, a renowned professor, a team of scientists at the forefront of research … This mention of the specialist can obviously be authentic. But sometimes, this figure only serves to give credibility to the words of the rumor, in the eyes of his audience. Faced with these references that we want to pass for credible, your sharp critical mind should ask: What are their names? Who are they? Where do they work? Very often, the info will not allow you to respond to it.

The counterpart of this maneuver is to use complex, unexplained vocabulary. A post that will explain crucial new information to you in scholarly terms is worth checking out. Why should you believe a message you didn’t understand?

And most importantly, why did the author of the post not make sure that you understand it, when it is obviously aimed at an audience that does not have all the knowledge required to understand it? its scientific jargon?

5. A rumor wants to be shared, don’t help it 

As mentioned earlier, rumor draws its strength from the mass of people who broadcast it. Fake news that is not viral is not. This is why very often, the message containing the fake news will insist (heavily) that you share it with those around you: “Share this information with your family, your friends and your acquaintances”, or even, with a dramatic punctuation “Share massively… ”, etc. Faced with this type of solicitation, your fake news radar should jump!

6. Control your emotions

The feelings we experience are another lever rumors use to spread. Their authors seek to shock you, revolt you, worry you, give you pity, scare you, or sometimes give you hope, with the sole aim of making you share with those around you the content you are writing. read.

In addition, fake news also plays on our convictions and the “confirmation bias” of other people: we all want to believe the information we wanted to hear and which locks us in our conviction. Thus, a message that frightens or shocks you, or that goes in the direction of your convictions, deserves special attention. It could well be false information.

Very often, fake news is accompanied by one or more images , added to the false information in order to give credibility to the fact, but also and above all to amplify the emotion that we have tried to make you feel. The photograph of a child in poverty, a touching anti-oppressor scene… an image that makes you react very strongly can be genuine, but could also be taken out of context, for the sole purpose of making you react.

7. Read the comments 

Although very often, the comments are full of nonsense of all kinds, some Internet users can warn about the falsity of the information, argue, and sometimes even provide proof, in the form of links to other sites, more reliable and sourced. If in doubt, and even if this verification is not enough, you can seek an answer in the comments. However, remember to sort it out, and read the feedback from Internet users with extreme caution!

8. Go back to the source of the information

This is probably the best advice we can give you on your quest for the truth. If you are reading information that you think is questionable, or if you want to be sure that it is genuine, it is best to trace the source of that information.

If sources are cited, you can go and consult them directly, looking for confirmation on a reliable site. Very often you will quickly find confirmation that it is a rumor, taken down by reliable organizations like the WHO or the government.

If the info (infox?) Is accompanied by photos or videos, you can try to go back to the source of these images. You can simply save the photo to your computer, and use the reverse search engines. Thus, these will return to you all the sites on which the photo was published.

9. Cross several sources

This tip echoes the previous point advising to go back to the source of the information. Indeed, whatever the result of your investigation after being traced back to the source, it is always more prudent to cross multiple sources, and in particular when the information comes from word of mouth, from a publication on a social network. , or a reliable fire site.

10. Ask a specialist

If, despite your sharp critical thinking and your research, you are not sure of the veracity of information, nothing like the response of a specialist. In the context of the current pandemic, several platforms such as FranceInfo, TF1, LCI, offer to ask your questions live or in a chat, so that they can be answered directly by qualified specialists.

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