Charity Full Fact to start fact-checking fake images, videos and articles on Facebook this month in the UK in an effort to slow the spread of misinformation
We’ve all seen it, and some of us are guilty of it: posting fake news on Facebook. You know the posts - they most commonly make claims so outrageous that you can’t help but click. Others contain ‘inside information’ from a ‘friend of friend’ who works in banking, or a doctor with ‘inside knowledge’ on a trick that prevents a health ailment, while others make outlandish claims about Facebook itself.
Although some fake news posts on social media are obvious, sometimes spotting fake news can be a challenge, and it’s no wonder. A 2018 study from MIT showed that fake news travels substantially faster on Twitter than real news - and that’s not even down to bots. People retweet fake news; in fact, fake news stories are 70% more likely to be retweeted than true stories are, researchers found.
Full Fact has been working with Facebook since 2016 to develop its third-party fact-checking initiative around the world, which will now be coming to the UK.
A main part of the charity’s focus will be on fake health news, a danger recognised by cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support, which hired a Digital Nurse last year to work full time to fight misinformation online. The charity hoped to stop people being distressed by fake cures and taking advice from unverified websites, such as fake claims like that baking soda can cure breast cancer.
“When people are diagnosed with cancer in the digital age, it’s normal for them to seek information about their cancer and potential treatment options online,” Macmillan Cancer Support’s Digital Nurse Specialist, Ellen McPake told Happiful. “However, the large number of sources which promote bogus cures and unverified statistics can lead to people not only frightening themselves, but worryingly, risking their health by underestimating the potential benefits of conventional treatment.
“It’s important that people affected by cancer feel safe online and are signposted to websites or platforms that provide trustworthy and reliable information from verified sources. This means they can make informed decisions about their cancer and are not subject to incorrect or misleading information,” she said.
Although fact-checking helps, “this isn’t a magic pill,” Full Fact said in a statement on its website. “Factchecking is slow, careful, pretty unglamorous work — and realistically we know we can’t possibly review all the potentially false claims that appear on Facebook every day. But it is a step in the right direction, and a chance to tackle misinformation that makes a real difference to people’s lives.”
What you can do
Here are some tips on how you can be a bit more vigilant in spotting fake news before you share on social media.
Flag content on Facebook that you suspect contains fake news.
Full Fact will examine public pictures, videos or stories and rate them as true, false, or a mix of accurate and inaccurate and you will be told if something you have shared (or are about to share) has been checked. You won’t be stopped from sharing anything - instead you’ll be given the option to read more about the source of the claim. Fake news will also show up lower in news feeds so it reaches fewer people. You can also give feedback on Facebook posts by clicking on the three dots in the upper-right corner of the post, then choosing ‘false news’ in the list.
Do your own research before posting.
There are several ways you can check if something might be fake news before posting. This includes checking the URL to see if it comes from a widely-known, credible news source, or double checking it on a fact-checking website like Snopes.
Teach your children to spot fake news.
Picture News, a charity run by two teachers, provides resources schools can use to help children better spot fake news, along with helping make it easier for schools to encourage children to question what they read and to develop health news mindsets. You can also read our article on how to teach your children to spot fake news.
Check your ability to spot fake news.
Test your fake-news-spotting abilities with these recent stories by clicking the link to see if the story is fake news or actually true.
Claim: In early January 2019, all speed cameras on the M1 and M25 motorways in England were simultaneously activated, with a uniform speed limit of 72 miles per hour.
Click here to see if this is fake news or the real deal.
Claim: When ingested orally or applied topically to an open wound, cayenne pepper can stop serious bleeding.
Do you think this remedy is true or false?
Claim: The consumption of hot cross buns has the potential to affect breathalyser readings.
Have a look at the truth here.
Macmillan’s Digital Nurse Specialist is available through the charity’s website and verified social media platforms. You can also call 0808 808 00 00 for more information.
Photo courtesy ROBIN WORRALL