Keeping it real
If you want to become more media-savvy and be able to identify fake news, there are questions you can ask yourself. These questions will vary depending on what type of account you’re following.
If you’re following a personal account and wondering about the reliability of news being shared, it’s important to ask questions and do research. Social media platform algorithms are designed for optimized user retention and engagement, and are not looking for misinformation or disinformation. A few questions that can help you identify fake news are:
- Does the account that shared the post have emotional or professional stakes in these claims?
- What is the content asking you to focus on?
- Is this information reasonable?
- Is it reputable, or does it cite reputable sources?
- Why is it valuable to the account that shared it?
Business or professional accounts
With a business or professional account, the focus is audience-centered. Professional organizations’ social media pages should ideally be informative about the business’ goals and values. They should engage potential or current customers and be careful not to alienate them. In addition to the questions you’d ask of a personal account, you should also ask:
- How am I serving my audience?
- Will this alienate anyone in my core market?
- How does this reflect on my business’s reputation or values?
- Is this timely or relevant to my clientele?
Falling victim to misinformation or fake news with a professional or business account can have serious consequences, so being thorough and cautious before you post can go a long way.
Combating fake news on social media comes down to understanding the goals of fellow posters and of the platform itself. Social media platforms make money by selling user data to ad companies, which is why you’ll often see ads tailored to your interests or search history.
This is important to know for context. As an individual, being aware that the news you see on your feed is filtered based on previously collected data can help you be more conscious of your own inherent bias. If you represent a business using social media as a marketing platform, it’s important to keep your posts consistent with your brand, and share things on your timeline that build customer relationships, line up with your values, or showcase original content.
Fake news on social media may be unavoidable. But you can help stop the spread by thinking critically. Maintain a healthy level of curiosity for what you read on your feed, understand how social media platforms curate what you see, and use investigative practices often. Social media is a powerful tool, for both businesses and individuals, when approached with appropriate intent and consideration.