Fake news websites – publications which post hoaxes and propaganda and make it look like real news – is a growing problem.
Fake stories are geared towards being shared on social media, which can mislead readers and even influence decisions.
Fake news was prevalent in the US Presidential election, and recent allegations suggest that the ANC tried to influence local elections by using fake news.
It has become such a problem that Facebook has updated its feed ranking system to “better identify and rank authentic content” and filter fake news.
It is also the responsibility of social media users to educate themselves about fake news.
Africa Check recently published a guide on how to stop falling for fake news, with its points listed below.
Read the website’s About Us section or look for a disclaimer
Many fake news websites attempt to soften their dishonesty by saying they cannot guarantee that their content is true.
Look in the “about us” section or in a “disclaimer”. You will find these links at the top of the website, or right at the bottom.
Check if the site is an IAB SA member
All South Africa’s top news websites are IAB SA members. You can see whether a website is an IAB SA member by looking for the IAB logo at the bottom of a website. You can also check if the websites are listed here:
Check who the owner of the website is
Type the website address in a lookup service to see who registered the domain.
Compare the results for News24 and Mzansi Stories, for example. News24’s registration shows the address, telephone numbers, and email addresses of its owners, Media24.
Mzansi Stories hides behind a domain registration company, making it virtually untraceable. This is not a guarantee that the site is fake, but should set alarm bells off.
See if the news is carried by news sources
One of the best ways to spot fake news 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 carried it.
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 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 ensure the website does not state 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 it is a fake article.
Known fake news websites in South Africa
Africa Check has compiled a list of known fake news websites in South Africa.
- Live Monitor
- Mzansi LIVE
- African News Updates
- Mzansi Stories
- Gossip Mill Mzansi
- South Africa Latest News
- National News Bulletin