From Morgan Freeman, Jon Bon Jovi, and Eminem’s “deaths” to numerous reports that Barack Obama isn’t a US citizen, false stories constantly circulate on the internet, where they often spread like the wildfire that reportedly caused James Earl Ray’s 2015 death. So, can you really trust anything you read on the internet? Here are several ways to be certain that what you are reading is the truth.
1. Look at the source.
If you come across a story that you are unsure about, start with the source. If it is earth shattering news, chances are good that it is not going to be first reported by a source you have never heard of. While it isn’t always possible to tell by the URL whether or not a site is reputable, it is a good place to start. However, be aware that even reputable sites, such as Forbes, allow random people to post blog posts without checking the facts. If you are in doubt, head to a leading site with a good reputation, such as CNN or The Wall Street Journal and do your research.
2. Examine the headline closely.
When you encounter a headline that begins with “MIRACLE” or touts an answer for obesity, world peace, or any other miraculous event, approach it with skepticism. If the article isn’t an outright lie, then there is a good chance the title is highly misleading. Again, do your research (with a reputable site) before believing anything.
3. Do a fact check.
There are a number of sites that are dedicated to letting you know the truth. For example, Snopes has a database of current and past false stories, along with the actual facts of the story and a bibliography that cites reliable sources. If you don’t see the story you are looking for, but still are unsure about the truth behind it, you can submit it to the site for the moderators to research. For political stories, head to Politifact for a full breakdown of what is fact and what is fiction.
4. Perform a Google image search.
If you see a photo that is questionable, do a reverse Google image search. You’ll be able to see where this image has appeared on the internet in the past. FotoForensics is another good option for evaluating photos.
5. Don’t forget to check out videos.
If you see a video and question whether or not it is as current as the author suggests, YouTube DataViewer will tell you the truth, including when the video was first uploaded and whether or not several versions of the video are making the internet rounds.
Unfortunately, you can’t always count on a story to be true. Fortunately, you now have the tools to verify it for yourself.