Don’t share trash: how to spot fake news

By Suthichai Yoon, The Nation/ANN

Thailand — Thais got a taste of what “fake” news can do to you recently when Facebook got fooled by its own algorithm. When the social network activated its Safety Check feature, a false security alert was triggered. A year-old article about a bomb blast in Bangkok (the 2015 Erawan Shrine attack) sent a jolt of panic across the world before it was deactivated an hour later. The incident raised questions about how Thais consume news on the social media. Long before fake news became a big issue during the U.S. presidential election campaign, many Thais were caught in their own drawn-out social media battle, posting news considered favorable to their political orientation — and disparaging stories that shed a negative light on their faction. The general public, however, has to be armed with sufficient guidelines on how to detect news that is deliberately distorted or cooked up to paint an incident in a certain way. I was drawn to the News Literacy Project in the U.S., which is focused on “vaccinating” citizens against fake news from a young age. The process has to start in the classroom, even before kids start using mobile phones. In what is being dubbed a post-truth era, news literacy must start from the ground up. The U.S. project uses a virtual classroom and mobilizes seasoned journalists to help students nationwide sort fact from fiction in the digital age. It offers basic questions — the five W’s and one H — as guards against falling into the fake news trap:

WHO wrote the article? Is there a byline or author? WHAT is the publication? Is it a credible or trusted news source? WHERE do the sources inside come from? Are they named? Are they legit? Are they absent? WHEN was it published? A missing date could raise a flag. WHY did the writer create it? What was the motivation? Would you share it with someone? HOW did it make you feel? Angry? Excited? Any other strong emotions? That could be another flag. Is it suspicious? To what degree can you fix it? To the general public, guidelines given by Nick Robins-Early, a world news reporter for the Huffington Post, can also be very helpful in spotting a fake story.