Fake News: How to deal with fake news when you are not a pro?

Article / 03/12/2018 /

Not only media professionals like newspapers or data analysis companies are facing major changes and new challenges regarding the always increasing and more complex amount of information. 

Private individuals have also to cope with disrupted information on the daily life and have to adapt to these new sources that are multiplying and to these new ways to inform themselves…or not.

As a matter of fact, disinformation is not a new concept, but rather one often encountered since almost two years. Not a single day goes by without being mentioned on television or in the newspapers. More well-known under the name “fake news”, in the Flemish as well as in the French-speaking media, it appears quiet regularly when we open a newspaper, watch television or listen to the radio.

However, from a historical point of view, disinformation has always existed under different forms (hoaxes, defamation, popular beliefs, propaganda, parodies…). Some people say that rumour is the oldest medium in the world. Still, the term “fake news”only entered in 2017 the Collins Dictionary and has that same year been qualified as « Word of the year ». It is defined as follows:

“False information, often sensational, spread under cover of reporting”.

The generalization of the word “fake news” is directly related to the election of Donald Trump in November 2016. Since the American elections, the idiom has been used abundantly and often erroneously by media all over the world, in a toxic mix of hate speech, ideological propaganda, rumours with attempt to destabilize and journalistic errors often due to hastiness.


After analysis, it appears that disinformation can take different forms:

  • Misuse of images and videos to illustrate facts that are not related to the ones described;
  • Creation and use of fake accounts on the web or social media to slander someone’s reputation;
  • Creation and feeding of fake websites that visually look like real ones;
  • Creation and spread of false documents (false evidence);
  • Use of bots to boost viral nature of messages.

This non exhaustive list, could very soon be completed with other more specific techniques that are coming up.

Then how to protect yourself against fake news when you are neither a media analyst, nor an expert in hoaxes on the web?

For any professional or private reasons, keeping yourself up-to-date on what happens around you is essential. Some listen to the radio, others read newspapers or get press reviews at work. Disregarding the source, it is not always easy to tell right from wrong, especially considering the enormous amount of data that we have to face daily. However, with a few simple cautionary rules, it stays easy to get informed while knowing how to detect suspect media content.

Here follow some advice to help you avoiding fake news:

1. Check the form of the news 

Is it a proper article or, on the contrary, a few words in a post on a social network? Is it published on an unknown website or the blog of a well-known newspaper?

As a matter of fact, social networks enable to share articles and news without the traditional media filtering and this, among other reasons like the information speed to spread, makes it the first source of disinformation.


2. Get to know more about the article’s author

Is the author a media professional, a public figure or a well-known expert in its domain? The experts website Decodex, related to the French journal Le Monde, which counts as a reference in this fields, advices to assume that a piece of information published by an unknown person on the web has more chances to be wrong than true.


3. Take a look at the sources

First of all, is the author citing its sources? If the mentioned sources are absent or not relevant, it would be useful to cross this piece of news with other media to verify its veracity. Every article sharing information without saying where it comes from has to be considered carefully. 


4. Cross-check the piece of information with other sources

Is the news shared in another relevant media source? If different reliable media sources publish the same information coming from diverse sources, there is a good chance that it is true. On the contrary, if it gets hard to find this information somewhere else, caution is required.

Do not hesitate to consult an expert.


5. Do not hesitate to consult an expert

Fortunately, there are many media professionals able to help to identify doubtful news. Traditional media (written press, radio, television) and their journalists are still the number one safe information source against questionable or fake news. Regarding the internet, there are many websites that are listing and documenting doubtful stories to set the record straight. Moreover, professionals of media monitoring or analysis have good advice against disinformation and how to counter fake news before it damages a name or a brand image.


In reality, information is far more complex to distinguish true from false is not always easy between the numerous nuances existing. The information and data flow are so dense that even official sources can sometimes miss a mistake. So it is necessary to keep in mind not to take any information given for granted but to exercise your critical mind.

If you wish to know more about fake news, how they spread and its different aspects, you can download our free white paper here.

Sources :

https://auxipress.be/fr/actualites/white-paper-fake-news-la-desinformation-en-mode-numerique https://www.lemonde.fr/les-decodeurs/article/2017/01/23/decodex-verifier-les-sources-d-une-information_5067724_4355770.html https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/02/02/facebook-goes-on-the-offensive-against-fake-news-for-italys-election/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4c7faf1058c4 http://www.lalibre.be/debats/opinions/face-aux-fake-news-il-ne-suffit-pas-de-separer-les-medias-fiables-de-ceux-non-fiables-5b0e6eba5532858b9269f2ee


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