Spot the fakes: Facts or fiction?

(How to spot the difference)

Juxtaposed to new 4IR Tech’s usefulness, an unfortunate side-effect is the rise in faking it online with new manipulation technology. Some faking is probably not the end of the world, such as manipulating your Instagram or Tik Tok content to put your best, or most quirky foot forward. But when fake news and deep fake videos can cost people their lives, as is happening in the terrible Ukraine war of 2022, it’s useful to know how to spot the fakes.

Manipulation of information and news content is nothing new. Back in the day it was called propaganda if governments did it, or spinning when civilians tried to force-field the facts to suit their personal purposes. These days, by using the advanced technologies now available for download by anyone, the publishing online of factually incorrect information has become significantly more pervasive. It cannot be eradicated, so our best defence is to train ourselves to become cynical about everything, while following tried and tested ways of evaluating everything that purports to be fact. It’s hard to question everything, especially at the fast pace of social media content reaching us, but it’s worth the trouble to make sure what you experience is true.

Some fakes are easy to spot, such as the video showing a dummy dressed up as a soldier in the Ukraine, which was a background scene from a TV show, while a meme shared by a trusted friend on Facebook that seems plausible is much harder to filter.

To help you in your quest for the facts, here is a handy guide for finding facts, not fiction.

  • Change your own behaviour when it comes to trusting news and information found online.
    Being cynical, careful and doubtful is an advantage to protect yourself from fake information.

  • Triple check everything.
    Do not trust a single source of information, ever. Obviously the more important the facts, the more careful you should be, but in principle, always try to check sources of information as widely as possible to make sure the facts can be verified. You should act as if you are a reporter yourself and try to find three trusted sources before believing, or sharing, a piece of information.

  • If it sounds and looks too good to be true, it probably is. Googling phrases such as the headline of a story will quickly alert you to debunked “news”. Authentic media outlets also regularly run fact-checking articles to help differentiate between real and fake: