The Cyber Safety Project Blog

All the latest in cyber safety and digital wellbeing.
October 7, 2020


Fake News! A term that quickly became a part of the vernacular of most citizens, in large part thanks to the current President of the United States. So, what is Fake News? Fake news is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an article that may look just like any other news article… except it isn’t true. With most of us choosing to get our news from a variety of digital newsfeeds such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter many people can’t tell the difference between what is real news or fake. Therefore it’s crucial that all of us (especially young people) — learn to decode what we read online to accurately assess its validity.

So, here is the 5 ways to help you, your children and students decode what is real and what is fake and help to truly separate fact from fiction.

1. Be critical!
Don’t just take what you read for it’s face value. It is important to ask yourself questions when you come across a “piece of news” to determine whether it is real, exaggerated or fake.
·        Who has made this?
·        Who is the target audience?
·        Who paid for this? Or, who is getting paid if you click on this?
·        Who might benefit or be harmed by this message?
·        What is left out of this message that might be important?
·        Is this credible (and what makes you think that)?

By looking at a piece of “news” and asking these questions it will quickly become clear if the story is real or fake. Check whether the story has been picked up by credible news publishers. Stories from organisations like ABC and The Australian will have checked and verified their sources beforehand. If the you are reading is not from a well-known source, this is cause to be cautious.

 2. Don’t believe everything you read!
More so than ever our own understanding of media and the role it plays in informing us has unfortunately been muddied through the privatisation of “breaking news”. We must draw upon our ability to comprehend and think critically [also know as literacy skills] as we navigate mainstream media. This requires digital citizens to develop critical skills such as conceptional understanding and knowledge of media literacy.

All in all,  common sense will prevail but it takes practise to develop these digital smarts. If a story sounds unbelievable, it probably is. 

3. Are they fishing for click-bait?
We have all done it. We are checking our digital news-feeds and we come across a post (often a sponsored posted) that sparks some curiosity around something you are interested in, celebrity gossip, humour or even current events by using an enticing title. The basic concept of ‘click-bait’ is to use a melodramatic and enticing title for an online article to manipulate and hook people into clicking the link and reading the content. “Man Hugs a Tiger… You won’t believe what happens next” and “90% of people can’t solve this riddle? Can you?” or perhaps give just the right amount of information to leave you wanting more…. such as “15 Tweets that prove NBA star Lebron James is a cheat”. 

To avoid begin hooked by click-bait -be vigilante, ask yourself “is the headline too funny, too positive, too scary, to unbelievable?”. Work with young people to understand often, the motivation for “fake news” sites create pathways to advertising material.

4. Have your emotions been triggered?
Check your emotions. Click-bait and fake news strive to pull you in by trying to get an extreme reaction. If the news you’re reading makes you angry, outraged or even laugh, it could be a sign that you’re being played and therefore it is fake news. Check multiple sources before trusting that the story is real. Creditable news outlets and their stories are ones that may trigger an emotional response, but, these outlets are motivated by truth and facts more than praying on your emotions to obtain readership.

An example of a headline designed to trigger fear, which may lead to people panicing and on-sharing:

 5. Is it a joke?
Satirical sites are extremely popular online. These often share similar format and are deliberately designed to look the same as credible news and media outlets. Take the example below, it look likes like most newspapers you would purchase with the subtle difference of humorous stories with little to no facts.

If it’s known for parodies or creating funny stories, then it is probably classified as fake news. This doesn’t mean that it won’t be entertaining, just that it isn’t factual and real.

Fake news is everywhere and is the reality of our modern media. Learning to identify fake and exaggerated news is an important life skill. Have a go at this choose your own adventure game, which challenges players to make their own decisions on which sources, political claims, social media comments and pictures should be trusted as you contribute to the day’s news output. It’s perfect to play with your class of students or as a family.


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