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How to spot Fake News?

Introduction

Fake news is false or misleading information presented as news. It often has the aim of damaging the reputation of a person or entity, or making money through advertising revenue. However, the term does not have a fixed definition, and has been applied more broadly to include any type of false information, including unintentional and unconscious mechanisms, and also by high-profile individuals to apply to any news unfavourable to his/her personal perspectives. Wikipedia

Spotting fake news

Discerning between facts and opinions

Some people may not be able to discern between a fact and a opinion. Generally, a fact is a statement that is proven to be true. Whereas an opinion is a stated preference or an idea or belief. The opinion may vary from source to source and person to person.

What are facts?

Facts are simple statements used to inform or make an argument.

A fact is an occurrence in the real world. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is whether it can be demonstrated to correspond to experience. Standard reference works are often used to check facts. Scientific facts are verified by repeatable careful observation or measurement by experiments or other means. Wikipedia

Identifying a factual statement

You need to ask following three questions to identify if it is a factual statement.

  • Can the statement be proved or demonstrated to be true?
  • Can the statement be observed in practice or operation?
  • Can you see it happen?
  • Can the statement be verified by witnesses, manuscripts, or documents?
Examples of a factual statement
  • Your heart pumps blood through your body.
  • The leaves of growing plants are usually green.
  • People use their legs to walk.
  • Some people keep dogs as pets.
  • 1 liter of water weighs 1 kilogram.
  • There are 50 states in the United States.
  • Water always comes from the sky.
  • The capital of Ukraine is Kyiv.
  • The third president of the United States was Thomas Jefferson.
  • Bali tigers are extinct.
  • Sir Ian McKellan played Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit franchises.
  • King John of England signed the Magna Carta in 1215.
  • The United States was established in 1776.
  • The pH levels in acids are lower than pH levels in alkalines.
  • Beethoven had a reputation as a virtuoso pianist.

What are opinions?

Opinions are useful to persuade, but careful readers and listeners will notice and demand evidence to back them up.

An opinion is a judgement, viewpoint, or statement that is not conclusive, rather than facts, which are true statements. Wikipedia

Identifying an opinion statement

We use two types of words to identify opinions.

  • Biased Words (bad, worse, worst, good, better, best, worthwhile, worthless, etc.)
  • Qualifiers (all, always, likely, never, might seem, possibly, probably, should, etc.)

There are three common types of opinion statements.

  • Positions on controversial issues
  • Predictions about things in the future
  • Evaluations of people, places, and things
Examples of an opinion statement
  • The cake tastes delicious.
  • She looks sad.
  • He is childish.
  • My history teacher hates me.
  • The movie was boring.
  • To solve traffic, it is better to invest in subways and trains than in road widening programs.
  • The TV shows in ABS-CBN are more entertaining than the shows of other channels.
  • It is better to live in Singapore than in Japan.
  • The internet is being used by teenagers to waste their time in social media.
  • I prefer using Facebook to Twitter because Twitter has limited characters per caption.
  • Nike is more useful than Adidas.
  • Liza Soberano is more beautiful than Janella Salvador.
  • Watching someone dance is more entertaining than watching someone sing.
  • Traveling in Asia is more fun than traveling in Europe.
  • I believe that the greatest president in the USA is Barack Obama.
  • The legal age for drinking should be lowered to 16.
  • London is the best city in the world.
  • Today seems hotter than yesterday
  • That was a good movie.
  • Strawberries taste better blueberries.
  • George Clooney is the sexiest actor alive.
  • The death penalty is wrong.
  • Beethoven’s reputation as a virtuoso pianist is overrated.

Verifying the source

To verify the source, you need to ask yourself these questions.

  • Are the pictures original and real? How do you know?
  • Do the source/people cited real? Are they reliable? How do you know?
  • Does the news exists in other news outlets? If so, what are the differences and similarities?

Conclusion

The fact and opinion strategy teach us about the difference a sentence can create in a content. This difference and strategy are quite valuable for people who are interested in learning English. This process facilitates evidence-based learning and encourages them to be analytical in their reading and listening skills.

You need to be cautious about the information you read online because they might be fake and has a hidden agenda. So try to test yourself on how you protect yourself from fake news by using our digital toolkit.

Sources

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.