Spotting fake news in a digital world

  • By Aung Htein
  • 1280px The fin de si cle newspaper proprietor cropped copy

Free flow of news beyond borders on this planet creates a motley assortment of fake news. Fake news is everywhere. You see it on your social media feeds, and even on forwarded messages on your phone’s group chat, dancing in dashing and dazzling moves.
Ironically, there’s always one person in your group who likes to send unverified news. Perhaps, a child is being kidnapped in your local city mall, or stories of political unrest and latest cancer scares. The news is forwarded from one citizen to another, like wild fire – not into the universe to get lost – but only on this lonely planet to cry havoc. The news can only be described as dubious sources.
Fake news was even named 2017’s word of the year by Collins English Dictionary, which describes fake news as “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting”.
With so much fake news online created by shrewd and sharp-witted scumbags, it can sometimes be hard to figure out the truth. But some countries are actually declaring the practice illegal – attracting hefty fines and jail time. Of course, it is necessary.
We thought you might need a crash course on how to tell what’s fake and what’s not.
In April, Malaysia enacted the Anti-Fake News Act, the latest in a series of legislative acts addressing the issue of “false” news and rumor-mongering. For instance, Section 8A of the Printing Press and Publication Act 1984 penalizes “false news,” and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 Section 233(1)(a) forbids any communication that is “obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive.” The penalty is six-year imprisonment and 500,000 Ringgit fine.

We must block fake news
In this digital world, we should willfully join the world in the fight against fake news. It is necessary to stay away from the harm of fake news creators. We need to differentiate between genuine and fake news. We must kick out fake news that may bring misfits, chaos and conflicts to our society.
Look at where the story comes from and read other articles on the site. Check whether they are well written with proper citations. Make sure whether the news is riddled with grammatical errors.
You should also make sure that you’re on a legitimate news site.
Some fake sites use addresses and even logos that are similar to those of real news organizations.
For example, is real, while is not.
Sometimes a fake news story can have a sliver of truth to it, but most of the facts and figures are made up.
For example, events and people mentioned are real, but the quotes attributed to them and other facts are simply made up.
To make sure, search for the same story on several credible websites to ensure nothing has been misrepresented.
Do a Google Reverse Image Search.
If you have come across a suspected photo assumed to be a fake one, then the photo in question could be checked through “Google Reverse Image Search.”
Upload a photo to Google’s Reverse Image Search to see where else it has been used and for what purpose.
That will help you ascertain if a photograph has been doctored or is being falsely presented.
If you are in doubt that the photograph under referral occurred in your own ward or village of a certain township/district, then one could check with other news reports of the relevant township/ district for personal assessment.

Do some independent research
If the news is not a domestic item, but a foreign event, then one could check with other digital applications. Check the questionable piece of news against other news sources or fact-checking websites.
Websites such as “”, “” and “” are essential sources that help throw light on fake news, rumors and urban legends.

Make sure it’s not satire
If the story is on a satirical website, you should be aware that the intent is humor and satire, and not to mislead.
Check that you are not reading a satirical website like “The Onion”, or “The Borowitz Report” in The New Yorker.
Satire means the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues, and that the piece is acceptable. Top notch newspapers in this world have been printing satirical pieces in their particular pages, and it is quite normal. These humorous reporting may contain some overstatement and exaggerations, but it is not “fake news”.
Yellow journalism and yellow press are American terms for journalism and associated newspapers that present little or no legitimate well-researched news, use eye-catching headlines for increased sales. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism.
The use of social media is a growing trend, and fake news could be disseminated within seconds and minutes across the globe, pushing innocent people into harm’s way.
Modern media comes in many different formats, including print media (books, magazines, and newspapers), television, movies, video games, music, cell phones, various kinds of software, and the Internet. Each type of media involves both content and a device or object through which that content is delivered. We have to be careful of the “fake news” in such media.
Dissemination of fake news is possible to destroy the government, non-governmental organizations or an individual, which could jeopardize peace and tranquility.
Upset and distressed
The characteristics of fake news are rather peculiar and immediately cause people to have lot of anxiety. It creates chaos and pushes in a state of complete confusion and disorder. Therefore, we must rely only on the main stream of decent media outlets.
Even then, well-mannered media outlets may sometimes bring in fake news, which we must only accept with a balanced outlook. In today’s world, media should focus more on media ethics, and moreover, they must elevate professionalism.
All main stream media sources must get in line with ethics so that it may tantamount to uplifting the democratic system and earn the esteem of the people.
The esteemed readers themselves must check whether the news is correct or otherwise, and on the other hand, it requires control mechanism and relevant laws that should be properly prescribed.

Struggle on the way
When fake news come under necessary scrutiny, then ethical media persons may have to struggle more to cope with the situation. As news is flowing more rapidly each and every second, people have to be very careful in reading and listening.
Especially, as fake news over online media is spreading like wild fire, people must always be alert to understand and differentiate the right news and wrong news.

Correct view
In Myanmar 33 million people are using information data over their mobile and smart phones. In this digital age, it is vital to have “information literacy” as well as “digital literacy”, and they are instrumental in the consumption of news.
In the country, Facebook application is very much popular and it has three main features, such as (1) correct information, (2) mixed information, and (3) disinformation.

Can be viewed as a bad act
When a person is sharing good news to another person, it is all right. However, when mixed information is being sent, then it is a bad act. Sending wrong news is the worst scenario.
Sharing of fake news is sure to wreak havoc among the people, and therefore, all the people must pay attention to it. In the digital world, people must pay utmost consideration of fake news, especially on the social network.
The author would like to share some statistics on the social media.
In every five seconds, there are uploads of 205,000 posts on Facebook, 23,000 tweets, 8,666 mobile conversation snapshots, 28 new WordPress blog, 6 hour YouTube video, and 300 Instagram.
There are social media that brings connectivity, harmony and friendship among the people. They are (1) social networking sites, (2) blogs, (3) Wikis, (4) Podcasts, (5) Forums, (6) Content Communities, and (7) micro blogging.
The social media should be instrumental for the greater good of the public, and not abused as destructive tools by wrong doers.
When creating a Facebook account, all particulars in the profile should be reasonable, fair, and acceptable, in compliance to generally accepted standard of respectable or moral behavior.
The Facebook account holder must never misuse and mishandle the webpage, especially with regards to race and religion.
When using social media, one must be careful never to endorse “Like” on an unhealthy page, and at the same time one must observe the rules of “privacy” in sharing the pages. One should avoid doubtful and dubious writings. Moreover, one must never ever take it for granted the information on the social media with a blind eye.
All people must be careful right from the news headlines, source of news, and the target audience to ascertain that it is not fake news.
In conclusion, the author of this article would like to urge esteemed readers to evaluate the news with wisdom before accepting the contents. The writer also wishes readers to consciously resist with alert over the fake news currently overflowing in the digital stream.

Translated by UMT (HK)

Source: Can You Spot Fake News? /Reader’s Digest

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