In today’s heated political climate, it has become increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction. Not everything you see online is real or comes from real sources.
A current FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election has revealed that nearly 3,000 fake ads were disseminated via social media. U.S. intelligence services say it was part of a broad effort to sway the 2016 presidential election.
Fake news struck again after a 26-year-old man opened fire on a Texas church service Sunday. As investigators struggled to piece together what led to the massacre, rumors spread linking the shooter to the anti-fascist movement. However, no officials or reputable sources have confirmed this.
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“When you look at things coming through your Facebook feed, there are some things you can do to be more discerning before you share,” said Jeff Gibbard, founder of Philadelphia-based True Voice Media.
The first step? Check your sources.
Using a free internet tool called Whois, simply copy and paste any questionable URL into the search engine and find out who is behind the post.
“It’s all right there. You can see who owns it,” Gibbard said.
Also, double check the URL. Does the address end with a dot com or with a dot com followed by an extension?
Here’s an example: NBCPhiladelphia.com versus NBCPhiladelphia.com.co
The latter is a fake web address, but the former is the real web address. In other words, look before you click.
FactCheck.org also suggests reading a complete story before posting. Sometimes a headline can seem legitimate, but the sources that are being quoted, bad grammar and salacious content can be a dead giveaway that it isn’t real news.
And what about the stuff that is shared by people you don’t personally know or recognize?
Try doing a Google image search by copying and pasting a photo and then clicking the “image” tab. This can help you find out if the person sharing stories onto your timeline is real or is using a picture from an online library.
“It says right there where it comes from,” Gibbard said.
Ultimately, Gibbard tells NBC10 that the responsibility rests on consumers to do the homework and double check everything that isn’t coming from a reputable source.
“It’s about being discerning about what you share and the purpose of why you share it,” he said.
For more tips, scroll through a cheat sheet courtesy of FactCheck.org.