- Source suspicion. Vague, untraceable sources, such as ‘a doctor friend of a friend’ or ‘scientists say’ without further details, should ring alarm bells.
- Bad language. Most trustworthy sources are regular communicators, so poor spelling, grammar or punctuation are grounds for suspicion.
- Emotional contagion. If something makes you angry or overjoyed, be on your guard. Miscreants know that messages that trigger strong emotions get shared the most.
- News gold or fool’s gold? Genuine scoops are rare. If information is reported by only one source, beware — especially if it suggests that something is being hidden from you.
- False accounting. Use of fake social-media accounts, such as @BBCNewsTonight, is a classic trick. Look out for misleading images and bogus web addresses, too.
- Oversharing. If someone urges you to share their sensational news, they might just want a share of the resulting advertising revenue.
- Follow the money. Think about who stands to gain from you believing extraordinary claims.
- Fact-check check. Go past the headlines and read a story to the end. If it sounds dubious, search fact-checking websites to see whether it has already been debunked.
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Sunday, November 15, 2020
At Nature, Nic Fleming identifies eight ways to spot misinformation about COVID, vaccines, and just about anything else.