In this blog we want our readers to assess their own ability to distinguish between real and fake news. We have selected nine cases of news and social media stories below. For each case, give yourself some time to think if it’s real, fake or satire. Also try to find some concrete reason to support your judgement. Let’s begin.
- You see the post below being widely shared on Facebook. The post claims the crowded photo to be of the evacuation of Indian citizens from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover. What would you think?
We hope you have given the above post some thought before reading further. When it comes to images, reverse image search is the first thing we should carry out. Searching this image on Google brings to surface some stories from December 2013 about the typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. This is a case of a real image used under a false context, thus a disinformation. Similar posts on facebook and twitter have received numerous reactions and shares, retweets. You can read the complete report on this at southasiacheck.org.
- Your friend sends you the story below cautioning you about the Janssen vaccine. What is it?
With anti-vaccine activists spreading rumors and hoaxes, the first instinct is to get skeptical about the news. Let’s examine the sources more carefully to confirm. The url cbnc.com is the official domain of CNBC, which is seen as a credible source. Let’s examine the authors. One of them is a senior editor with a decorated career in journalism. The other is a news associate. It looks good so far. Now let’s examine the claims. The risk of blood clot in females below 50 years has been found to be rare but possible. This notice by the CDC has mentioned it. The speculations of deaths related to the Janssen vaccine are real but there hasn’t been any conclusive evidence to suggest that it was solely due to side-effects caused by the vaccine. This news is real.
- You see this video, discussing how professional archers control their instinctive urge to shoot at the spectators, shared on Facebook. What is it?
The presentation of the video is professional. The animation, the scientific explanation of the phenomenon are convincing. Anyone unfamiliar with The Onion is most likely to believe in this video and never sit as a spectator in archery tournaments. Google search on The Onion reveals that it’s a satirical media company. It publishes satires disguised as news. It has been criticized for some controversial stories which were believed by the public to be true and thus contributed to spread of misinformation.
- It’s January 2017 and you see this tweet. What would you think?
Let’s examine a few things here before we reach a quick conclusion. Is the twitter handle legit? A quick check reveals that @nytvideo is one of the official handles of The New York Times. That suddenly makes the case more convincing one. Why would a reputed newspaper risk making such a controversial claim? One of the red flags in the tweet is the language. NYT’s tweets are typically written in complete sentences. The above tweet, however, has a missing period and hasn’t capitalized the first letter. This is actually false information written by hackers who had hijacked the account. NYT deleted the tweets.
- This photo is from the inauguration ceremony of Janssen vaccination campaign in Kathmandu, Shravan 4, 2078 BS. This photo was released by the health ministry. Would you deem this image credible?
Let’s analyze this image in a similar way. How can we check this image? One way is to run the reverse image search on Google. The search reveals some webpages related to the ceremony where this image was taken. One clearer version of this image was found in ekantipur website. Here’s the link to the image. Can you compare the two images? A close inspection reveals that the dates are different in the two banners. The image released by ministry shows the date to be Shravan 4, whereas the image found in various news sources show the month to be Ashadh 4. Further investigation reveals that the date on the banner was printed incorrectly as Ashadh 4 instead of Shravan 4 and the ministry had edited the photo in an attempt to avoid embarrassment. You can read the complete case study at nepalfactcheck.org.
- You see this tweet by former king Gyanendra, where he expresses his dissatisfaction towards the means used by political parties to gain power. What would you think?
We believe you checked the twitter handle. It has one hundred and fifty thousand followers and regularly writes tweets echoing the collective feeling of the nation, be it during festivals or calamities. One initial red flag here would be the missing blue tick that indicates a verified VIP account. To check further, let’s examine the list of followers. On current date 22nd August 2021, some famous names in Nepal, such as Baburam Bhattarai, Kamal Thapa and Manisha Thapa are among the followers of this handle. These accounts have blue ticks, confirming their authenticity. This makes us think whether the account is actually real. This is a confusing case and was resolved through inquiry with Gyanendra Shah by mysansar.com. It was confirmed to be a fake account. You can read the complete case study here.
- BBC Nepal publishes an article about Nepali activist Muskaan Khatoon’s happiness at receiving the International Women of Courage award once received by Malala Yousufzai. What is it?
The logo and the page layout seem authentic. The url bbc.com is authentic too. The source seems to be credible. The news story claims that the International Women of Courage award received by Muskan had previously been conferred to Malala Yousufzai. Let’s refer to other sources to check the facts. After referring to the US government’s article we can confirm that Muskan had received the award. However, the claim that Malala had been a recipient of the same award turns out to be a false claim. Checking the list of previous recipients of the award makes it clear. This is an example of misinformation resulting from sloppy journalism. What sets misinformation apart from disinformation is that the latter one is intentional, while the former one takes place out of ignorance.
- It’s December 2016 and you see this tweet declaring the demise of Queen Elizabeth II. What would you think?
The news seems fake from the first glance itself. Still, let’s try to verify it in a proper way. We think you must have checked the source first. What does the handle say? @BBCNewsUKI. What’s the “I” at the end stand for? A Quick check reveals that the official handle of BBC UK is @BBCNews. The “I” might have been placed there so that people, in hurry, might mistake it for a parentheses. It’s the case of fake news from a fake source.
- You see a tweet by Naresh Rokaya, a board member of Nepal Trust, quoting the commander-in-chief of Nepali army, where he declared K.P. Oli was the most fearless prime minister in the nation’s history. What would you think?
Searching facebook or twitter with the words “निडर प्रधानमन्त्री” reveals numerous such posts and tweets. None of them provide any further evidence regarding the claim. The day before such tweets emerged, PM KP Oli and commander-in-chief Purna Chadra Thapa had attended a seminar by the Nepal Army. It was speculated that the statement might have been made there. But the video of the seminar, uploaded by Nepal Army, has no such statements. Furthermore, we are unable to find Thapa’s testimonial regarding the incident. Thus, although the incident seems unlikely to be true, we’ll have to consider it as an unverified case rather than a case of false information.
How many did you manage to distinguish correctly? Our objective here was to show how easy it can be to mistake false information, or even satire, for authentic news. Debunking fake news is turning out to be an important skill and the only way to learn is by educating oneself on digital media literacy.