How to spot fake news and what to do about it
Published Thursday, December 13, 2018 6:00AM PST
Last Updated Thursday, December 13, 2018 7:06PM PST
Seeing is no longer believing.
Fake news has dominated many online sites and social media feeds. It’s misinformation that is gobbled up and shared with the potential to create false fears and undermine our democracy.
A recent MIT study of Twitter revealed that fake news is 70 per cent more likely to be retweeted than accurate news, reaches people six times faster and fake news about politics does best.
"We need to actually be a little more skeptical of what we are seeing," explained David McKay, program head of BCIT’s Forensic Science and Technology School of Computing and Academic Studies.
U.S. President Donald Trump is always talking about fake news and believes that the public can tell the difference.
"People know when a story is true and they know when a story is false," Trump has said.
But that’s not always the case. McKay says many altered images and video and are not easily identified and must be carefully examined to verify their accuracy.
He says often the information you need to analyze is the metadata – the digital fingerprint of an image.
McKay recommends tools like JPGSnoops and Tineye which can be found on the internet. They can do reverse image searching to help verify if an image has been altered or re-purposed.
However, many images uploaded to social media feeds and are stripped of metadata and are harder to authenticate.
“You don't have any capability of downloading the image from Facebook or Twitter and checking the metadata. It's gone," explained McKay.
That’s where your "spidey sense" can help. If something doesn’t seem right, McKay recommends you search the internet for other sources to help verify if something is true.
Look at the URL and domain name of the source. Check the "about us" section of the webpage. Look at the quotes in a story. If it’s a serious or controversial story, there are likely to be sources identified which you can verify online. If studies are quoted, look for them.
The U.S. Department of Defense is working on ways to automatically detect altered images and video but Mckay believes it will still be a long time before that happens.
"I think it's going to be years down the line before we fully realize how influential this fake news is," he added.