How to identify fake content on the internet for beginners

While scrolling down the infinite Facebook or Twitter newsfeeds, it is often difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is fake. There is a large number of unauthentic sites and profiles on social networks, but false media are generally widely present on the internet, and it is therefore important to know what you should pay attention to.

By: Emir Zulejhic

When we talk with other people, the most important factor is our level of familiarity with the person with whom we are talking. If a complete stranger approaches us, for the first time in our life, with a very important and urgent message – are we going to immediately agree to talk with that person? If, out of curiosity, we agree to a conversation, does that automatically mean that we will accept everything within such a conversation as truth and fact? The answer is probably not. Then why exactly would we be willing to accept online content from sources unknown to us as truthful and factual? Why would we believe portals, websites and profiles on the Internet that do not wish to properly introduce themselves or are even completely anonymous?

Any portal that presents itself as a news and information medium should provide an Impressum and publish signed articles.

How to recognise non-authentic pages and profiles?

While scrolling through the feeds of Facebook or Twitter, it is often difficult to recognise which content is real and which is fake.

Supposing we come across an article that was published by a page on Facebook. In the case of news media, the name of the Facebook page and the portal should be the same. If they are not the same then we should certainly be suspicious, e.g. a Facebook page called ‘Grandma’s cookies’, sharing an article from a portal called ‘Latest News’ which reports on political issues. ‘Grandma’s cookies’ shouldn’t have connection with ‘Latest News’ and especially not political issues. It’s the same with ‘Love quotes’ but also with pages with names of the famous individuals.

However, the site and portal names do not even necessarily have to vary that greatly for us to doubt the credibility of a source – it is enough that the names are not identical, e.g. a Facebook page named “News24h” sharing content from a portal named “Balkan News”.

If we open a Facebook page with name of a celebrity, city or interesting description, and see that links to a portal are regularly shared, we can be sure that this shared content has the purpose of making money.

Even if a Facebook page and a portal whose link is shared have the same names, it is still advisable to access the Facebook page’s “About” section, as a credible site should have completed all the sections in the part “About this page”, starting from the name of the administrator, the phone number and address, all the way through to an official website and detailed description.

By clicking on the “Page transparency” option, we can access information on the country in which the page administrators are based, the date when the page was created and whether it has changed its name.

It is similar with profiles. Authentic photos, an extensive friends list, photos with other people, and other people’s comments are generally evidence of an authentic profile, while, conversely, only one type of content being shared is indicative of a fake profile.

How to recognise fake media?

Let’s go back to a portal whose link we have encountered on Facebook. It is always important to know who are the owners, editors and journalists working for any online news medium. This information is contained in part of the portal called “Impressum“, and it is usually located at the top or in the header of the homepage. If the portal does not have an Impressum, i.e. a media ID card, then it cannot be considered a credible source of information.

Let us ask ourselves this; in a democratic society, what would be the motive for concealment of identity in the case of publication of accurate and objective news?

The next step is to check the news content itself. Each item should be signed beforehand and we should ensure that these are not false names.

The author or the owner of photos used should be clearly stated, and the time of publication of the article should be visible and accurate. Confirmation of information should always be sought from a number of different sources.

We are guided by the principles of real life interaction – if someone wants to tell us something, it is necessary for us to be introduced first. We should therefore not believe what we are told by anonymous portals with anonymous owners. Indeed, we should not buy any product without an accompanying declaration of authenticity, as well as the name of the manufacturer, composition, durability and all other relevant information.

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