- Check the article’s sources.
- Does the article source any of its information? Where is the information coming from? Is it a reputable news outlet, or is it an opinion piece? Beware clickbait sites – For example, it’s common to mistake usatoday.com with usatoday.com.co (a “satire” site that looks nothing like USA Today). Does the site source other sites? If you don’t know where the information comes from, it’s a huge warning sign. When in doubt, check the “About us” section of the site – Reputable satire sites usually offer hints that they are satire, although clickbait sites sometimes do not.
- Vet the source of the information.
- Do other articles on the web site make sense or sound absurd? You may be on a clickbait site, or a “satire” site, or on an opinion piece. Opinions are only worth the reliability of the source of the opinion.
- Google the topic.
- This is especially useful if you are unsure of the quality of the source of the information. Find out if other people are reporting it. If it’s as big as the news claims to be, you are certain to be able to find other sources for the information, simply by Googling. You may also find articles that offer another perspective, allowing you to clarify what it is you actually know about the events being reported on. You may also find a Snopes link, or other article refuting what you are reading. It might also be worth searching your topic with the words “scam” or “debunked” after it.
- Share an article without checking it.
- Not everyone on the net is thorough in checking what they read. By committing to be thorough for yourself, you are helping to reduce the amount of misinformation on social media. Sure, one person doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, but doesn’t it suck when you post something and someone who is checking articles posts a Snope’s link to rebut what you just posted?
- Comment/Like an article without checking it.
- This may go without saying, but it’s easy to start participating in a comment thread on a completely unvetted topic. Then, minutes, hours, or days later someone comes by and tells you that the article you’ve been so worked up about is actually a hoax, or “satire”. Doesn’t that make you feel silly?
- Share/Comment/Like an article without reading it.
- It’s easy to get worked up in the rush of doing other things and judge an article by its headline. With the advent of clickbait, this isn’t excusable anymore. So often articles are posted with an inflammatory headline, and then when you read the article you find that its either exaggerated, or sometimes completely different than the headline implies.