Actually read the article
Whoa, actually reading the entire article before determining whether it’s likely to be real or fake? It may sound a little time consuming in an age of instant news gratification, but many fake news stories become increasingly obvious once they’re read in their entirety.
So if you see an article that you’re not really sure about, read it all with a sceptical mind. Does it appear a little too far-fetched or is it trying to convey humour? The article itself may give away its true nature.
Give the web address a second read
Is that really a BBC, CNN or NBC article? Sometimes fake news sites will attempt to mimic the design, title and layout of a well-known media outlet, but checking the web address should expose the imposters.
For example, the notorious late hoaxer Paul Horner purchased the domains NBC.com.co and CNN.com.de to try and trick visitors into thinking the domains were associated with those media outlets, when they were not (the real sites are CNN.com and NBC.com)
Check the date
Often real stories are re-circulated long after they’ve stopped being relevant. Before hitting share, make sure the story is recent and not out-dated.
A cure for cancer. Really?
A cure for cancer would be pretty big news, and as such it would likely garner quite a lot of media attention. Unless, of course, we already have a cure for cancer and the pharmaceutical companies, along with the various scientific communities, the government and the media are all in cahoots to keep it a secret from you in order to maintain the profits for the former.
That’s a popular narrative that many alternative health websites tell when trying to peddle monthly subscriptions of “miracle cures” to their readers. Don’t fall for it.
Is the story designed to make you angry?
Ever read a story and felt it was trying to make you angry? That’s a popular modus operandi for some of the most viral and successful fake news stories. Nothing makes us share a story faster than when it triggers an emotive response. However, just because something makes you angry, it doesn’t mean it’s true. This is particularly true if the story is politically themed and seems to be appealing specifically to one side of the electorate.
Kick those critical thinking skills into gear and use the previous points to determine if you’re being hoodwinked.