Sometimes, people are just careless about what they write or say. “Everybody else said it. It must be true.” Other times, people tell fake stories on purpose to cause confusion. That can be propaganda, in which a group tries to change how others think by making up facts. Sometimes it’s “trolling” – saying something ridiculous just to get attention. Unfortunately, a lot of times people don’t check their sources before they forward e-mail or share a story. That can scare a lot of people, or get someone in real trouble or even hurt.
Smart digital citizens learn how to analyze media and news. For example, you know that advertisements are supposed to make you want to buy something. Does that include lawyers, or medicines that are on TV? Is a “troll” news article on Facebook trying to confuse you on purpose? Any time you see something that sounds too good to be true, or seems silly or scary, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the title written like a question?
- Is the title typed in ALL CAPS or with lots of exclamation marks?
- Does the identical story appear on several sites?
- Does the story have links that don’t connect to more information on the subject?
- Can you find more information about this topic by using a different search engine?
- Is there an “about” page that lists an author and contact information?
You can also search for the story on a site like Snopes.com that lists Internet hoaxes. And of course, your school/public library and media specialist can help you find true information. What do you think? Has there been a news story that scared you, or made you angry, that you think might be fake?