We have all seen something online and been unsure if we should believe it or not. We've also probably all shared inaccurate information, often unintentionally and without even knowing it! In order to feel more confident about what information to trust, it's useful to have some fact-checking techniques you can use when you want to verify information you see online.
These techniques are adapted from the work of Mike Caulfield, a leading scholar in civic digital literacies and the Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State Universtiy Vancouver.
Stop: This is a critical move! When a piece of information sparks a strong emotional response, either positive or negative, stop to think before you act on or share it. If something seems outlandish, or makes you angry, or seems too good to be true, you'll want to verify it.
Investigate the source: Where does the information come from? What kind of reputation does that source have? If it's a person or a media outlet, Google them and maybe check their Wikipedia page. What do others say about that source? Does it seem trustworthy or appear to have a track record of sharing misleading or false information?
Check other sources: Open another tab, do a quick Google search, and scan other sources to see what they are saying about the topic. Does it appear that there is a consensus among reputable sources that this information is accurate?
Just like text, images and videos can be misleading or even completely false. If you find yourself unsure about an image, try a reverse Google image search to see if you can find the original source of the photo.
No such search currently exists for videos, but there are a few things you can do to consider a video's authenticity, as outlined in this guide from CNN, and summarized here.
Look for clues in people. Do their eyes appear to be blinking normally? Does their speech sound normal, not slowed down or sped up? Do their words synch up with the way their mouth moves?
Does it look like the person is in the environment in the background, or does something seem off about the relationship between the person and their background?
Can you find the video in other sources? Do a keyword search for the person featured and the topic of the video. Can you find it in a reputable source, or better yet, more than one?
Want to practice separating fact from fiction, use some of your fact checking skills, have some fun, and maybe learn something along the way? Try playing FakeOut, a game from CIVIX, an organization based in Canada and devoted to helping students improve their digital literacy.