How to Avoid Being Embarrassed by Fake News
I remember how embarrassed I was when it happened: I read an article online that led me to believe that one of my favorite childhood television stars was deceased. That was until a dear friend and colleague of mine did some fact checking that proved otherwise. And there I stood, with egg on my face, humbled by the fake news phenomenon.
The creators of fake news articles will often use sensationalized headlines, similar to tabloids, to grab viewers’ attention. The more intriguing, peculiar, or shocking the headline, the more likely it is that the viewer will read on and take the information at face value—like I did.
In its infancy fake news was used as a vehicle to spread inaccurate information, cause fear and panic, or create a mockery of significant news events, such as a celebrity’s death, a natural disaster, or elections. Since fake news has proven so effective at exploiting human curiosity, cyber criminals have begun to use it as a phishing mechanism to deliver malware and commit other cybercrimes.
For example, a hacker could easily embed malicious code into an image within a fake news article and distribute it via social media. By simply clicking on the image, the device becomes infected with nasty malware such as Locky ransomware. In fact, there is a pretty good chance that one of your close friends has unknowingly shared information, or an article that contained booby-trapped images or links to malicious websites. Of course, this makes combating fake news even more difficult, because as the saying goes, if you can’t trust your friends, then who can you trust? To help protect yourself from being duped by fake news, we suggest using the following strategies:
Put your emotions in check and think before you click.
Fake news feeds off human curiosity, and that captivating headline you just read may have been carefully crafted just to lure you in—don’t fall for it.
Carefully scrutinize the news you read regardless of who shared it.
This includes your friends. If you are unsure about the accuracy of a story, check to see if it’s being reported by other credible sources. If the story is true, other news organizations are most likely reporting on it as well.
Familiarize yourself with the author or contributor.
Start by Googling the author or contributor, check their sources, and supporting evidence. You may also consider checking fact-finding sites like Snopes.com and FactCheck.org to see what they are reporting. You just might discover that the story is meant to be a hoax, satire, or joke.
Using these simple strategies can help you avoid the pitfalls of being embarrassed or misled by fake news. Remember, when in doubt, always check it out!
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