Depending whom you believe (whom can you trust anymore??), Facebook employees are in revolt after CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted there was fake news in the feed. Like, enough to throw the election, allegedly.
Meanwhile, a town in Macedonia admitted that its teenagers had been posting intentionally false pro-Trump news on American-sounding websites just for clicks and shares.
I mean, that’s according to something called Buzzfeed News.
The reality is that sharing these stories is like sharing the FB Privacy Status Post. It’s embarrassing. And it makes you look stupid. So here are 10 tips to help you steer clear.
1. Odd news from an odd domain doesn’t make for even coverage. It’s insane that the media completely ignores Bill Clinton’s illegitimate son. I mean, they treat him like he doesn’t even exist.
2. Be like Siri and say, “Hold on. Checking my sources.” There are so many “news” outlets out there. But a quick Google search is an easy way to check if a sensational claim has merit.
3. Misspellings. This is the hardest one, but we’ll add on syntax, connotations, etc. Foreign-bourne scandal stories don’t always “sound” American and, yes, people with poor reading skills are the first to fall victim.
4. Lack of an author might mean lack of authenticity. You can Google a writer. And you should. No one in the 21st century posts a story without secretly hoping that it—and they—will go viral.
5. Beware of “community posts.” Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and even Nick Denton’s Kinja let users post community stories under their own names. So even when you read something coming from the real Buzzfeed, there will be community guidelines as to why this is posted there. Treat it like the classy internet comment that it really is.
The way to make you share is known as “rage views”; the reader clicks, shares and then gets likeminded people to do the same, just because of how angry the story makes them. And the reality is that when you’re clicking on an outrageous story, it’s really just pushing your buttons.
6. If it makes you really angry, it’s like when you’re about to get in a fight: You’re probably just going to make an ass out of yourself. I can’t keep linking to these stories, but thirsty news outlets know how to make you click. And the way to make you share is known as “rage views”; the reader clicks, shares and then gets likeminded people to do the same, just because of how angry the story makes them. Remember, politics is usually extremely boring. And the reality is that when you’re clicking on an outrageous story, it’s really just pushing your buttons.
7. Here is a comprehensive list of fake news sites. There really are too many to even memorize and they could all be replaced tomorrow, but this Chrome plugin is quite handy and will let you know if you’ve clicked on one.
8. Treat every website you visit like it will ask for your credit card info. When you’re getting something for free, remember, you’re the product being sold. Would you buy a $100 iPad from a site called “abcnews.com.co”?
9. Like milk, news expires. Check the date. On Wednesday morning my newsfeed filled up with story after story, many from reputable sources, to the tune of “With the Stroke of His Pen, President Obama Permanently Protects Planned Parenthood.” The idea being that Obama got up early after the election news, knew there would be fearful women across the country, drafted a bill and then made it law. In reality, that story was a proposed rule change. From September. Like a lot of these fake stories, this one had a claim in fact, was in reality harmless, but we made it into something else by sharing it.
10. If it sounds too good to be true, call your mother and tell her she was right. Because it is. Maybe you’ve never been to Denver, so you’d have no way of knowing that there is no Denver Guardian. Nor does anyone report on a story from “Channel 13 News” since no one has the same channel 13.
These websites are lousy with viruses and sometimes ask you to download a PDF of some sensational source. And the next thing you know every time you search Amazon it links to another store. Run a free check of Malwarebytes today. It’s basically the free STD test of whether you’ve been sticking your nose where it didn’t belong.
Now none of these moves will stop the biggest problem, which is having our heads up each other’s asses. None of it will kill the fact that the biggest fake news story of the year, which we can’t stop spreading or reporting on, is the idea that rational American people all fell for fake news en masse and voted wrong.
If you believe that, then please, put your money where your mouth is and email me your credit card number. My email is a reliable Google address.