How To Verify Information & Stay Ahead of Hoaxes

These days, Hoaxes and Fake News is a major problem caused by widespread use of Social Media.
People tend to believe everything they see and feel that it’s their duty to share it.

Although most of the times no real harm is done there have been cases where such misinformation has caused riots or violence.

Hoaxes are easily spread but they are debunked even more easily.

In this article I will be covering a few tips and tricks for verifying information and debunking hoaxes.
The first part is for common people while the second part is for journalists who need much more fine tuned data.

1) Google.

  • There is a hefty chance that someone has already verified the information and debunked it if it’s a hoax. You can simply type the keywords of the post that you have received and Google will return with relevant searches. If it’s a hoax, you will easily get to know it.
  • A way to refine the earlier search is, Type the Key-Words and then add Hoax/Fake/Debunked next to it. This search is more likely to return with useful results that the previous one.
  • Often times old photos are used along with some story. A reverse image search can yield information about the origin of the story.
    A photograph taken a year back can’t be the proof of some recent incidence.

2) Check The Source.

Checking the source of the information is the first thing that needs to be done. If you have a link, you already have the source.
Some Sources are known Satirical News Sources while others are powered by Citizen Journalists.
The former is obviously false while the later is not dependable, you mustn’t blindly believe such a source.

Everything covered till now is sufficient for common people. 
The rest of it is for Journalists.

3) Thoroughly Check The Source.

As a Journalists you will be looking through hundreds of random websites, pages and posts.
You will need much more better ways of obtaining information about your source.

And the best way of doing it is by using Google Dorks.

What this basically does is return with results mentioning or linking to your source and exclude direct results of your source.
The code is:

“Name of The Source” -site:https://www.sourcename.com/

Example: “Blue Sphere Observer” -site:http://bluesphereobserver.com/

Copy that, paste it into Google Search Bar and hit enter. You will see what it does.

To do it on your own, simply copy the sample and replace it with your relevant information.

4) Go To The Grassroots.
Most websites cite a tweet or Facebook post or Reddit.
A great way is to follow on to the original tweet/post and go through the corresponding Comments.
That will get you a fair idea about it’s fidelity.

Here are few other useful resources for Journalists:
1. Optimizing Google Search for Journalism.
2. Using Google Alert for Journalism. 
3. Using Google Custom Search for Journalism.

All of this will help you get authentic information and avoid getting fooled by hoaxes.

You might ask why you should take these efforts.

The answer is, spreading misinformation is unethical as well as a crime. It can lead to damage but even more at the fundamental level, it degrades Human Knowledge.

Hopefully this will help Journalists and Digital Researchers to weed out useless information and find a real important story.

Author: Rohan Dandavate

Email: rohan_dandavate@riseup.net
Public Key: [http://bluesphereobserver.com/rohan-dandavate/]

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