i saw a post today where someone stated that they often can't tell real information from misinformation online. i am not here to make fun of that person. that being said, the ability to figure out if information is real or not is a critical skill for everyone who uses the internet. you need to be able to do that on your own. it's great if you can get help or if people will tell you what's real and what's not, but you also need to be able to do it by yourself. simple, easy tips under the cut.
the most common style of misinformation i see on tumblr is the fake news headline. it's an image or multiple images of a headline and sometimes an attached story. easy tips to discovering whether this is real or not:
is there a link in the post? click it and see where it goes. no link? possibly fake, possibly the poster just didn't include it.
google the full headline, not just key words. even better, google the headline with the full headline in quotes so you get exact matches. can't find a match? probably fake.
is there a clear url/website attached to the headline? if so, go to the website and search for the headline. can't find a match? probably fake.
is there an author? google them. see if they're real. see if the subject of the article matches the stuff they usually write about. see if they have social media where they may have posted the headline. can't find an author, or they seem way off-track? probably fake.
if it's an image of a tweet, look up the person's twitter handle. can't find the tweet? possibly fake. it could also be a real tweet with the text or date edited.
is there a date? a story written in 2002 may have very different ramifications than a story written in 2022. it depends on the subject, but some subjects change rapidly and even a 5-year-old story may be out of date. see if you can find anything recent. if not, it may be fake or out of context.
go to google news and do a quick scan. this is going to work better for headlines that are about world news, but it's still worth a try. google news also allows you to search stories and limit by date. see if you can find a matching headline. if you can't, it may be fake or old news.
don't trust social media. just don't. please. people can and will say literally anything they want. anything you read on social media that has real-world implications, you should fact-check.
you may think it's overkill, but google everything. even things you're mostly sure of. reading more headlines and more news can help you get better at discerning between real and fake headlines.
every source of information is biased in some way. try to seek out less biased sources. look up the bias media chart (here's a link) and use it to find sources that do less biased and more original reporting.
think about bias as you're reading. who is the author writing for? why are they writing? what do they want the audience to feel? what facts are they choosing to include or omit? how might the presentation of the facts change if someone with a different perspective was writing?
there are also websites dedicated to fact-checking. this works best for major world news, but try snopes or factcheck. the rand corporation has a huge list of tools for rooting out disinformation as well.
there's nothing wrong with asking for help, but if you genuinely cannot figure out if something is real or not on your own, and you give up trying to figure it out without help, you run the risk of believing and even spreading misinformation. some misinformation is essentially harmless (a celebrity's favorite color, for example). some misinformation is incredibly dangerous. please please PLEASE check your facts. it is quick and easy and worth it.
if you need more help, let me know.