False reports are spreading rapidly through social networks and messengers. Especially via WhatsApp. No matter whether political falsehoods, pandemic news or other social issues. False reports can divide the population, fuel hatred and agitation.
So that you don’t become part of fake news campaigns, you can easily protect yourself. We give you good research sources and tips here.
In particular, shortly before elections, such as the presidential election in the USA or even in federal and state elections in this country, false groups deliberately publish false reports on the Internet and via WhatsApp.
But even in times of crisis, such as a pandemic or increased influx of refugees from other countries, groups use digitalization to spread fake news to stir up fear and hatred and thus achieve goals in a very perfidious way.
The messages are often distributed via the popular WhatsApp messenger, which is used by millions of people worldwide. Voice messages, screenshots with supposed headlines or chain letters are often used to spread misinformation. With these signs you should exercise caution and check carefully before forwarding:
- The reports often begin with a questionable “receipt”, for example “My friend’s brother works at the Ministry of Health / in the Bundestag / with a critical infrastructure and has” secret “information that nobody should know”
- You are asked to send the message to all contacts as soon as possible
- It is said that an important human asset is in danger
- It is appealed that something has to be “protected”, such as one’s family, democracy, the legal system or our free life and freedom of expression
- The message makes you nervous as soon as you read it and stirs up fears
- The message is such a sensation that the forwarding impulse is immediately available “Kitchen call” (Have you already heard THAT? That is an absolute nonsense!)
Such messages spread so quickly because they specifically play with people’s feelings and emotions. This is the tool that is used for dissemination. But what should you do now? What if the message is correct and you urgently want to warn others? Keep calm and follow four steps:
1. Use reputable sources and understand the claim
- The Tagesschau uses the ARD Fact Finder to illuminate current fake news
- The non-profit organization “Correctiv” researches facts about false reports
- Has the source mentioned been associated with fake news in the past?
2. Check facts
How realistic does the widespread message actually feel? Do others report on the Internet? Are the above-mentioned institutions perhaps already addressing the issue and what does the Twitter community say?
Check quotes: The fact that quotes and o-tones are completely taken out of context is often particularly bitter with fake news. That means that the quote is true, but maybe it was said years ago on a completely different topic. It is best to enter the quote in the full text search (i.e. with quotation marks) on Google and check whether it has already appeared elsewhere.
As soon as false reports are circulating, affected companies or scientific institutions respond with a statement that will revise the report. It’s best to check the company’s official website or Twitter page immediately after receiving a possible false report.
3. Check pictures
Images are similar to quotes used in fake news. Thanks to sophisticated image processing options, photos can be deceptively real retouched and thus faked. Here the Google reverse image search helps. In the browser you use Google Image Search and upload the corresponding photo. You will then see very quickly whether the picture actually looks completely different.
4. Check up-to-dateness
The time of a statement is also extremely important in times of false reports. Facts change constantly, politicians or researchers make numerous statements in the course of their careers. The Google full-text search or the image search also help here to find out when a quote or photo first appeared on the net.
Other ways to find out fake news
The European Union has created an extensive information portal with which you can find out more about security on the Internet.
The brochure “Fact or fake?
How to expose false reports on the Internet” (Link leads to the PDF) gives you important tips on hand.