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8 Techniques to Fight the Spread of Fake News Online

Tim Truzy is a rehabilitation counselor, educator, and former dispatcher from North Carolina.

False news appears daily online.

False news appears daily online.

Types of Fake News

A wide range of fabricated events pepper the social media landscape. In this article, eight strategies are given for curbing the onslaught of faulty information on group and individual levels. Some reasons for the continued spread of problematic stories on social media appear in this piece as well. Finally, current efforts by various platforms and scientists to curtail the dishonest data online are also included.

Nevertheless, untrue data can paralyze democratic institutions, costs lives, and cause social unrest. Yet, knowing about the different types of misinformation appearing on the internet is a crucial step in combating dangerous lies. Primarily, when there are political incentives communicated with disinformation, such messages are called propaganda. By definition, intentionally fabricated statistics and material are considered disinformation. On the other hand, misinformation can be thought of as any inaccurate data as a result of phony news or mistakes.

Understand the tricks of fake news’ hucksters

Understand the tricks of fake news’ hucksters

Exposing the Illusions

Rehabilitation counselors confront misinformation head-on. In my professional role, I tackled misperceptions about disabilities related to misinformation from harmful myths. However, presenting the truth about a topic altered and enhanced understanding. In essence, very few people are immune from lies, whether originating online or in face-to-face interactions.

Incidentally, architects of fake news use techniques which impact many areas of modern life and spans centuries. In fact, P. T Barnum (1810-1891) is wrongly credited with saying: "There is a sucker born every minute." The greatest showman on Earth was fond of creating interesting and thrilling productions for audiences. Today, similar tactics are applied by fake news creators to captivate online participants, tapping into the same cognitive processes. Generally, human beings have changed little since the time of P. T. Barnum or even during earlier periods. For instance, Barnum is noted as encouraging people to thrive in one vocation while managing a diverse business empire. In short, misinformation has been a viable tool for deceptive parties for a very long time.

Carefully scrutinize what arrives in an online account.

Carefully scrutinize what arrives in an online account.

Individual Techniques to Stop the Flow of Made Up Stories Online

  • Be cautious if a flawed report encourages violent actions. Law enforcement agencies and the military are better equipped to deal with such issues. Most matters involving force are meant to be handled by professionals.
  • Develop skills for dealing with social media at websites like News Literacy Project. In addition, search for “About Us” and “Contact” links within a news item. A questionable URL should be a giveaway about the veracity of the text, audio, or video. If contact pages are absent, and the story doesn’t appear on other news outlets, chances are high the piece is fake news.
  • Note if urgency is implied. This could signal some of the data is inaccurate. Frequently changing fonts indicates a possible false news item. Poorly written text is another sign the information is not credible.
  • View any information from unfamiliar sources with skepticism. Watch for words such as: always, never, impossible, and permanent. These words suggest a judgment as opposed to fact.

Group Strategies for Fighting Fake News Items on the Internet

  • Avoid posting inaccurate stories. Investigate the details at fact-checking sites like: Encourage others likewise.
  • Share accurate information with respect and empathy. When people have views which conflict with the correct data, condemning and patronizing can fuel a backlash. Alienation may be the result without furthering the cause of defeating misinformation.
  • Respond when misinformation appears on social media sites. Explain the underlying logical fallacy in the bad source. Provide a reputable counter argument. Add links and/or photos from a legitimate source.
  • Use simple messages to address fabricated data. Communicate in straightforward language and images. Complex true information may require graphics or videos for some people to comprehend. Keep it easy to understand.
Minimize internet junk from showing up

Minimize internet junk from showing up

Why Do People Post False Information?

There are several reasons for the flood of fake news on the internet. Primarily, researchers have found many people want to be the first to obtain fresh news and pass it on. In addition, a great number of individuals enjoy interesting or fascinating stories to share.

Moreover, intense emotional involvement in a topic influences whether or not the information moves on. To such a degree, feelings concerning a news item can interfere with interpreting the information properly.

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar and colleagues at Penn State conducted a study suggesting videos are the most convincing form of media for proliferating misinformation. Finally, participating in a group online is one way some individuals benefit psychologically by fulfilling the need to belong.

Be a lion of truth amidst the circus of misinformation.

Be a lion of truth amidst the circus of misinformation.

Protecting Against Social Media Hoaxes

Indisputably, incentives abound for those using social media platforms to deluge people with vast amounts of correct and false data. Popularity ranks high along with financial motives. Fake news authors recognize people apply cognitive and emotional workarounds to decide whether a story is believable. Con artists realize people may not take the time to check the facts. In other words, fake news creators understand the data appears true if it closely matches what a person believes. Yet, scientists and social media platforms are actively using strategies to fight the abundance of misinformation online:

  1. Debunking fake news items has become more prevalent. Online sites, such as Facebook, have begun “flagging” fabricated stories. Usually, these platforms include links to truthful sources. Debunking is a method of controlling the damage from fake news after the material has been posted.
  2. By contrast, prebunking can be thought of as inoculating against misinformation, lies, and falsehoods. Basically, revealing an idea of what kind of deceptive information will be presented is the general principle of prebunking. Logical and fact oriented techniques have been proven effective. Spotting the tactics of falsified data enables people to dismiss suspicious details. Examining the source of an online story is also useful. To such a degree, a simple internet search about this technique will lead to various games scientists have created to help people determine if a news story is made up.

The Future of Fake News

In spite of valiant attempts to implement these measures, the persistence of misinformation on the internet can be detrimental. For instance, several studies suggest prolonged periods on different social media platforms is associated with increased depression and decreased attention spans. Furthermore, jobs have been loss due to misinformation. Trustworthy news outlets have noted many of the people arrested for the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building cite social media as the source of fraudulent election results. In essence, misinformation can linger in our minds and impact our actions.

Essentially, most producers of jape news understand humans’ capacity for relying on heuristics. Basically, these are natural mental shortcuts for determining reality. Such knowledge is manipulated in order to gain continued attention and influence behaviors. Therefore, awareness of tricks pushed by misleading internet content developers minimizes the risk of being fooled.


  • Article:

Sundar, S. S., Molina, M. D., & Cho, E. (2021). Seeing Is Believing: Is Video Modality More Powerful in Spreading Fake News via Online Messaging Apps? Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. doi:10.1093/jcmc/zmab010

  • Books:

Bergstrom, C. T., & West, J. D. (2021). Calling bulls**t: The art of scepticism in a data-driven world. London: Penguin Books.

Sheldon, P., Rauschnabel, P. A., & Honeycutt, J. M. (2019). The dark side of social media: Psychological, managerial, and societal perspectives. London, United Kingdom: Academic Press.

The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy, and Our Health--and How We Must Adapt. (n.d.). Currency.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.