How To Detect And Avoid Misleading News On Social Media  

Social media is a treasure trove of information and news that can make it difficult to determine what is misleading or false. The mass spreading of false information has resulted in even more coverage on certain topics dedicated to fact-checking which is becoming more common on social media.    

Instead of looking for fact-checking articles, there are a couple of methods that can help you determine and fact-check information. One of the most common forms of misinformation on social media starts with photos or videos that are manipulated to be taken out of context.   

More people are using photo and video footage to post on social media spreading misinformation through the text or caption. The existing content is typically from a different time or place than when it actually occurred. This is a more common tactic using older existing content to spread a new context that is related to their message.   

Another common way of spreading misinformation is posing or staging actions related to the message of misinformation presenting it as reality. Spotting staged footage can be determined best by noticing the vantage point or a lens used for certain shots. For example, someone filming can manipulate the footage by filming tight shots with a couple of people attempting to depict a large crowd that can be better determined with an aerial shot.   

There are many ways to manipulate footage while filming and even more in post-production editing for the final result. Some looking to spread misinformation will digitally alter footage using editing software like Photoshop to better support the misinformation.   

The spread of misinformation has only grown through social media with many media outlets reporting on fake news with fact-checking reports. As this issue grows, social media platforms are reforming to feature labels to provide more background information on sources of who posts and whether statements are true. Most social media platforms have updated their algorithms to detect posts of misinformation and in some cases creating a team of workers to detect or flag misleading content.   

Despite social media platforms taking action, they don’t catch everything and it’s up to you to make the best judgment by knowing some fact-checking basics. Fact-checking might seem like a thorough research project but might be easier than you think.   

The best place to start is by consulting reputable fact-checking resources like Bellingcat, Australian Associated Press, RMJIT/AMC, and Agence France-Presse (AFP). These trusted resources maintain a list of fact-checks based on recent events and social media coverage.   

One technical way to fact-check is by examining the metadata that contains the details of when and how footage is created. You can check the metadata by downloading the footage file and then use downloaded software or online metadata viewers that can be used with the image’s web link.   

It’s recommended to broaden your search as repurposed or recycled content can leave a trail to the same footage used on another website. You can utilize reverse image searches like TinEye or Google Images that will show results of websites where the image was previously featured.   

In some cases, simple photo edits can throw off the search results and it’s recommended to try searching for edited versions, the most common edit is reversing or flipping the image. Another thing to look out for is inconsistencies in the footage that can be subtle but upon further examination and comparison can show flaws.   

The next time you see something on social media, remember these tips and use your best judgement to fact-check claims to avoid believing misinformation. With practice over time, you’ll be able to spot misinformation easier and quicker.