Social and digital platforms offer us many powerful ways to connect with one another. A lot of us use the Internet for many things, such as communicating with our friends and family both locally and abroad through WhatsApp, getting news and information.
Although there are many positives to this, there are also risks. It is really important to be able to develop skills in being able to discern between accurate and false information online. Anyone can post or share content, which means you may come across a lot of inaccurate information or even scams.
Below are some tips for staying safe online, and being able to tell apart facts from fiction.
1. Spelling and grammatical errors
Can you spot many spelling and grammatical errors? This may be a sign that you should be wary of the content you are reading. Reputable news organisations and professional bodies have high standards, and typically ensure that their content is proofread.
2. Check the source
Always be critical of where you are reading information from, who has written it, and what their sources are. Often infographics, images and stories may circulate on platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook with no sources to back their claims. Be critical of information you see on social media – take the time to look up and verify information yourself.
3. Do a quick Google
It is good practice to do a quick cursory web search to see if there is any other information about a topic – are any reputable media outlets covering this? Sometimes this can flag up whether the information in question is a widely circulated urban legend not based in fact, or a common scam in the case of phishing e-mails.
4. Read beyond the headline
Often low-quality websites will use clickbait titles to get more page views. Make sure to take a second to skim read the article so you have a more accurate idea of the story behind the headline. And ideally, avoid sharing articles without reading the full story first.
5. Use websites such as Snopes
Websites such as Snopes and Full Fact have teams of rigorous fact checkers who prove or disprove widely circulated claims. Their fact checks are transparent and well sourced, laying out how they arrived at their conclusions. It can be useful to see if they have written anything about a story you may have heard.
We hope this blog has helped you navigate online spaces safely. If you ever have any questions or concerns about something you may have seen or read online, just get in touch.