Tips to avoid spreading fake news

Simple rule: Do not post items on social  media that contain links to content you did not create yourself. You might post a link to your photo on Flickr, but only to photos that you created. Or you might link to your own blog, assuming it contains content you created.

If you follow this rule, you help prevent the spread of fake news and propaganda. Due to the high volume of noise on social media, it is difficult to determine what is true or false.  If you restrict posts to your own content, you avoid falling into the social media propaganda trap by not sharing questionable items.

Realistically, there is other content such as how-to tutorials, instruction and product support pages that is helpful to share. Ask yourself – does this link promote an agenda, virtue signaling, or does it provide helpful information?

Bottom line: We don’t have to play this game, so don’t become a link in the social media propaganda chain.

Block Web Sites

To help yourself to avoid fake news web sites, you can set up blocking systems that literally block access. You can do this in a couple of ways – one is to use OpenDNS and configure the DNS service to block specific domains. Another, if using Windows, is to edit the Hosts file to list domains you wish to avoid. Detailed instructions for these options are contained here.

Once set up, you will not be able to access the specified web sites you have identified as fake news.

Do Not Subscribe to  Fake News Groups

Facebook is filled with Fake News pages which are often focused around a political ideology. Others focus on conspiracy theories, celebrities and even religion. Some, oddly enough, wrap themselves as science or engineering focused pages – but also distribute stories about fake science discoveries and fake inventions. All exist to create share-able content that goes viral on social media and generates click thrus back to their ad supported web pages.

  • Protect yourself by not following these groups!
  • Protect yourself from looking foolish by not sharing content from these groups!

Twitter is also filled with accounts that exist solely to promote propaganda messages. On Twitter I have a tight tolerance for propaganda – if I see a propaganda item from someone in my Twitter feed, I generally unfollow them immediately.

If a group you follow puts out any item that you find suspect, chances are good that many of their items are fake news designed for sharing. Avoid them!

Think!

Last fall I shared an item that turned out to be fake. I had cross checked elements of a science related item which suggested the story was plausible – but the story was false. I stopped following the science page that created this as they refused to acknowledge that falsity of the item, even though many readers pointed it out.

The best propaganda usually sounds plausible – and often fits into your own preconceived idea of what you think should be true (targeting confirmation bias). This is by design – propagandists/fake news publishers are highly skilled at manipulating you into believing and sharing their message.

This is why it is so difficult to avoid sharing fake news on social media. So don’t share!

Summary

  • Do not post items unless you created them yourself. Avoid sharing.
  • Unfollow and Unlike groups and pages that distribute fake news

(Why so many posts in one day? Geez! There’s a foot of snow on the ground outside and the entire metro area is shut down. And I have a terrible head cold and feel like doing little today.)

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