Fact checker

I wrote this as a comment on a friend's Facebook page after he posted an article that (to my opinion) screamed 'fake news' all the way. My friend was not convinced and insisted that what he posted was true even though there was no other media corroborating the story. He felt I was just being difficult since I held a partisan grudge and so I posted this second reply for him to figure out that there are non-partisan and purely objective ways to ascertain whether or not a story meets the criteria of truth. 

It is said that we are now living in a 'post-fact era'. Today, there are lots of discussions going on about fake news being circulated across various social media platforms like Facebook and others. Some of the news can be so compelling and so attractive that many find it hard not to share the news. 

While many might find it hard to prove that  any news item they come across is fake, there are however, certain principles we can follow to ascertain the truth.

Main question to ask are:

Is this an extraordinary 'news worthy' event?

If yes, then ask:
a) What are the credentials of the news source? That is, where is it coming from?
b) Is the news source an accredited news agency? 
c) Is it operated by qualified journalists and are proper checks and balances used before releasing any story?
d) If it's a genuine news agency/ outlet, how has this organisation conducted itself or rather, what is its reputation in the market?
e) Next question to ask - if this is an extraordinary 'news worthy' event, has any other news organisation or social media covered it?
f) Are there different versions of this 'news worthy event' available in the public domain?
g) If this 'news' is available elsewhere, then check if it's the 'same' news or any new/ different angle has been introduced to it?
h) Check if there's a byline or any way you can get in touch with the 'source.'

And then you need to examine the news story or footage itself:

a) What kind of language is used? 
b) Does the 'news' contain language that's objective the way journalists often use while drafting their story? c) Or does it have a lot of emotional words that betray the writers' bias?
d) If it's a video... look for tell tale signs of 'tampering' through special effects?
e) If there are no such signs, watch the video carefully and again make notes...
i) Are people speaking? If so, can you hear what they are saying? Are those words directly related to the 'event' occurring in front of them?
ii) What are people doing? Do you see anyone with smartphones recording the 'event'? If so, can you get hold of that footage from
social media or elsewhere?
iii) If the video is not tampered, then are you sure that what is being shown is directly connected to what has been written?
iv) Is it a natural occurrence or is it of human origin?
v) Could the visual be interpreted any which way through the power of evocative words?
vi) If the news has quotations from anyone... check the credentials of those individuals, their background and other tell-tale signs that would make them traceable and identified as 'real'.
vii) If the website has the look and feel of a credible and accredited news agency, and has that company's well known logo on the top... take a look at the URL. If the URL is something else and/or has spelling mistakes, then, it is a fake site. 

But most importantly, if the news is extraordinary, then, apply healthy scepticism at all times because it is always safe to do so.


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