Sensationalist fake news articles are becoming a regular feature on Facebook, where thousands share these articles – oblivious to the fact they are fake.
In a recent example, a fake article titled “Two arrested over 80,000 ballot papers already marked as ANC votes” received 20,000 Facebook likes and shares.
The article also attracted the attention of the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), which slated the fake report.
The IEC opened a case with the SA Police Service to investigate the source of the false report and for referral for prosecution.
How to spot a fake news website
Before you share or like an article, you should make sure that the news source is reputable.
There are a few ways to achieve this, and spending a few minutes to verify the article can save you the embarrassment of perpetuating a fake article.
Check if the website is an IAB SA member
Most of South Africa’s reputable online news sources are members of the IAB South Africa – the official industry body of online publishers in South Africa.
You can check whether a publication is an IAB South Africa member here:
Check who registered the website
You can check who a website is registered to, or who the owner of the website is, by using a “Whois” service.
If you see an anonymous registration, where the owner of the website hides behind an anonymous registration service like Domains By Proxy, alarm bells should go off.
- Check who owns a co.za website here: Co.Za Website Owner Check
- An example of a reputable website owner: News24
- An example of a website where the owner is hidden: Vavosascofirm
See if the news is carried by other reputable news sources
One of the best ways to spot a fake article or fake news website is to check if reputable news sources carried the story.
If a story is sensational, check the following news sources first to see if they also have the story.
Check that the website is not a satirical website
Many websites publish satirical articles, which are marked as satirical news sources.
Some fake news websites also hide behind a disclaimer of being a satirical website to publish fake news to get cheap Facebook traffic.
Always check the website’s About page to make sure the website does not state that it is a satirical news source.
- Example of a “fake” news website: African News Updates About Page
Check the comments regarding the article on social media
Before you share a sensationalist article, check the comments below the article on Facebook to see if people point out that it is a fake article or comes from a fake news source.