For the last several years, we have been hearing about foreign governments subverting United States elections using sophisticated teams that create fake stories and circulate them on social media. While foreign governments and large teams are most certainly a major source of disinformation, there are also tools available online that make it easy for anyone to create their own fake news.
These online fake news generators often provide you with a random image to get you started:
All you have to do is provide the headline and description and the generator gives you a legitimate-sounding domain — in this case, it was cbs-news.us — and you’ve got yourself a story that is sure to go viral on social media.
So, how can you identify these fake stories? It’s easy if you just ask a few basic questions:
1. Visit the site, don’t just read the headline. Often the site will state that it’s satire on its “about” page, or there won’t even be a complete story.
2. Is the source reputable? In this case, a visit to the main domain cbs-news.us takes us to the fake news generator itself.
3. A quick search for the headline shows no known news sources reporting this story.
4. A check on fact checking websites such as What’s True, TruthorFiction, Snopes or FactCheck.org will either show no fact check at all — which is a strong sign that it isn’t a real story — or a fact check giving you the real information.