November 20, 2016

Don't be fooled!

It is becoming increasingly common to find stories, often on Facebook and other social media, that are just flat out fake.

I worked in IT for 25 years, the last seven years as an internet programmer. I want my friends to be safe and smart. So here are some ideas to help defend yourself against fake news.

There are several ways to check on their validity, and it's really important to do so. If we don't stop sharing fake news, the consequences will be grim for our democracy. 

A free press, beyond being a First Amendment right, is an important way to preserve our other rights. If fake stories continue, the real journalism that we depend on will cease to exist.  Why would an organization pay correspondents to write and fact-check real, dependable stories?  It just wouldn't pay.

There are three ways I check my news:

1. If you want to get the real news, you have to read stories that have been written by real journalists. In my mind, the best way to do that is to depend on the time-tested web sites of news organizations that have been around a long time. 

Remember back in the day when you mostly saw the domain extensions ".com" and ".org"? Those are the domains I look for to get my news. Here are some that I personally consider reliable:

     www.newyorktimes.com
     www.washingtonpost.com
     www.apnews.com
     www.nbcnews.com
     www.npr.org
     www.cnn.com
     
There are many more, including other newspapers, TV networks, and magazines. In addition, there are plenty of sites that report real news from their own particular slant; I won't even try to name them here. And, of course, don't forget your local home-town paper and TV news sites.

Unfortunately, there are phony sites that end with ".com" too. One of those is "rt.com"  This is a Russian propaganda outlet. Just don't go there.  If you aren't sure about a ".com" site, see suggestion 3 below.  There are so many bogus sites; I won't try to name them here. But you can find other articles out there that list the bad ones.

It is shockingly easy to replicate these sites; that's why you have to look carefully. You cannot depend on the appearance of a web site, because it's very easy to grab the logo and layout of a legitimate site and use it on your own.

So always be sure to look at the web address of the site you are reading. That will be the "Uniform Resource Locator" (URL) in the address bar at the top of the screen on your device when you get to the web site. It could also be the link you click on to get to the story.

It can be tricky, because it's not always displayed the same way. It may start with "http" or "https." Or it may just start with "www." Or sometimes it's "naked," without any of these.

It may also be between a set of slashes.  In other words, between the double slash "//" and the single slash "/" that comes next. But always, if you think you're looking at a legitimate ".com" site, the ".com" must come right before the first single slash, or there must be nothing after it.

Take a look at these addresses. Look very carefully, because they look good. But if you see something like these:

     "www.cnn.com.biz/"
               (".biz" follows ".com")  
     "www.newyorktimes.co"
               (".co" is not part of the New York Times site; it should be ".com") 
     "www.cbsnews.com.site/"
               (".site" comes after ".com")  
     "www.reuters.online/"
               (".online" is not part of the Reuters site; it should be ".com")

run far, far away. These sites are not only bogus, they could contain dangerous viruses or try to get you to enter personal information so they can steal your identity.

2. If the story appears to be on a reputable site, go directly to the site to read it. For example, if the story appears to be on the New York Times web site, go directly to their site. Don't click on it; type in www.newyorktimes.com and search for the story. If it's breaking news, the story will be right on the front page. If it's an older story, it won't be hard to find; just search for the headline.

3. Search the web for the story. If it's the real thing, other outlets will have reported it, too. If you don't find it on other legitimate sites, forget about it.

Feel free to share this post. Many of you believed bogus stories during the election. Even Trump's staffer Corey Lewandowski shared at least one of these. Take a look at this and see if you can figure out what's wrong with the web site address. The answer is in the caption.

The domain name says "abcnews.com.co" when it should just say "abcnews.com"
The real ABC News address ends with ".com" not ".co"

One of the publishers of fake news said,  "My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time. I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything."

Don't be fooled.

p.s. If you have questions about what I've written, enter your questions in the comments section below and I'll do my best to answer them.

5 comments:

  1. Great post, Pam. It is so important to thoroughly vet our news sources, and it's not difficult or time consuming.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Jen, you speak truth.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Excellent post, Pam. I didn't realize how easy it is for fake sites to resemble real ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it's easy in multiple ways, and easy to fool you if you don't look closely. :(

      Delete