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Is it legit? Five questions you should always ask before believing something you read online

Can you spot a fake news article? Can you tell if an image has been doctored? Here’s how to separate fact from fiction in your social media feed.

13·05·2021

From the moment we wake up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night, we’re bombarded with information. 

Social media has taken this to the next level. 

In some ways this is a good thing. 

People need easy access to information to make informed choices. 

The problem is not all information sources are credible. 

And the line between an article that’s legit, and an article that’s been completely made up is often not so obvious.

Why it’s important to ask – “Is it legit?”

 

It’s not unusual for different new sources to have slightly different ‘takes’ on the big story. 

The problem comes with the internet. 

Online information is sent and received so quickly. 

This leads to two things:

  • Important details and facts falling by the wayside in the rush to get a story online
  • Legitimate news sources being confused by unreliable ones

 

This is why we see online echo chambers where people share, and start to believe, things that aren’t true.

Five questions to help you check if it’s legit

 

With a critical mind, separating fact from fiction online is easy. 

It’s all about knowing what to look out for. 

And knowing the right questions to ask.

Question #1 – Has anyone else reported on the story?

If a story is real, nine times out of 10 someone else will have reported on it. Do a quick Google search and if nothing else shows up that can be a sign the story’s not legit. 

Question #2 – Does the story have spelling and punctuation errors?

We knew there was a reason to pay attention during English class! Reliable sources have high standards when it comes to proofreading. If the article is full of spelling and grammatical errors that’s a sign it’s not legit.

Question #3 – Where was the image sourced?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But pictures can be doctored or misused to make people more likely to click on a link. If the image in your article looks a bit off, try a Google Reverse image search. This will show other pages that have used it.

Question #4 – Have you heard of the source?

The headline might be compelling. But if you haven’t heard of the publication, there might be nothing in the information behind it. Do a quick Google search and check the other articles (if any) the source has published. 

Question #5 – Has the article referenced unreliable information?

Has the article included links to other websites and sources? Click these. If they look as unreliable as the one you’ve been checking, that’s a bad sign. 

We’re overloaded with information these days, but that doesn’t mean we should believe everything we read. 

Having a critical mind, knowing when to second guess information and knowing what questions to ask is the best way to make the right decision. 

And to tell if it’s legit, or not worth reading. 

For more tips and resources to help you stay safe online, identify trustworthy information sources and deal with tech challenges, visit eSafety here.

Have you ever found unreliable information online? What do you do to check whether or not something’s legit? We want to hear your story.

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