Fake News? If in Doubt, Check it out – Peter Ongera

Fake News
Fake news leads to poor decisions, the hardening of stereotypes, creating social divisions, and damage the public’s trust in the media, says Peter Ongera.

There’s a lot of false information circulating online. Forwarding a false message on social media can mislead your friends, family, and the general public. They may be tricked into believing something that is not true. We should always be careful not to share false (fake) or misleading messages and images.  But how can we tell if a message is false?

Want to know what’s true and what’s not? We use Fact-Checking to verify. The Oxford Dictionary describes fact-checking as a process seeking to “investigate (an issue) in order to verify the facts”. Fact-checking is a form of critical, investigative inquiry. It includes a wide range of approaches and practices. But there is a history behind fact-checking and the contemporary need for it.

Fact-checking as a concept and job title started in journalism in New York in the 1920s. TIME magazine was at the time a young publication, and its co-founder Edward Kennedy explained that the job of the fact-checker was to identify and then confirm or refute every verifiable fact in a magazine article. Soon The New Yorker had fact-checkers, as did Fortune and other magazines.

According to Ms. Camilla Bath, an experienced journalist, and trainer, Fact-checkers have occasionally been hired by book publishers, authors, and organizations to vet their material and promote accuracy to enable consumers to make informed choices. Opinions can be informed by facts, or by the purposeful denial of them.

False news can lead to poor decisions, the hardening of stereotypes, creating social divisions, and damaging the public’s trust in the media. Such stories get shared a lot and attract traffic.
In recent years, fact-checking has become more prevalent as reflected in the increasing numbers of fact-checking organizations being established internationally. While often considered as a journalistic pursuit aligned to established media outlets, it has also been the focus of work by NGOs, charities, and non-media-aligned organizations.

According to  Ms. Carina Van Wyk, Fact-checking organizations like Africa Check are independent, non-partisan organizations that assess claims made in the public arena using journalistic skills and evidence drawn from the latest online tools, readers, public sources, and experts, sorting fact from fiction, and publishing the results.

Whatever your profession or occupation, it’s best to question – not dismiss – a claim until there is reliable, verifiable evidence to back it up.

Social media- from WhatsApp to Facebook and Twitter- is awash with job scams and quack cures. Just because it’s online does not mean it’s true! Verify before forwarding a message. Imagine how awkward it would be if you were wrong!

Here are some tips and advice on how to fact-check. Always start with the key questions
like: Where is the evidence? Is the evidence verifiable? And is the evidence sound? How was the information gathered? When? By whom?

Always be critical and curious by reading the comments accompanying the story. Check the correctness of spelling, grammar, and web links of the story.

They say “seeing is believing” but in this age of disinformation(which is deliberate)and misinformation(based on ignorance), we need to be more careful about trusting our eyes. Look out for dates and landmarks of videos and photographs presented. Are the images altered or have blurry lines and faded colors? One can verify images and videos by using reverse image search on Google, Tin Eye, Bing, Yandex, Red Eye, Invid, and Amnesty International’s YouTube data viewer.

If in doubt, check it out, experts advise.

Authored by Peter Ongera

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