Logo of the Internet page of Facebook reflected in the eye © Oliver Berg
Increasingly, false news and social bots are influencing the formation of political opinion. Most of the time it is difficult to determine whether they are rumors. There are, however, a few tools for recognizing fake news or images.
"You have to develop a nose to be able to notice that a piece of information on the Internet can’t be true," says Andre Wolf of "Mimikama". The Austrian initiative fights false reports and rumors on the Internet. With a little practice, however, it would be easier to determine whether an assertion is true or not. In an interview with the Evangelischer Pressedienst , Wolf provides the necessary tools:
Identifying the source
If a report is very one-sided, dramatizing or exaggerated, you should be suspicious: What is the source? If an article is linked, one checks on the website the Imprem. If there is no contact person or if an address abroad is mentioned, this could be an indication of a fake. "The more serious and transparent the imprem is, the more credible the content of the page," says Wolf. Those who spread lies usually have an imprint without a name or none at all. Also, he says, a page’s imprem lists whether it is satire. Satire often works with the deliberate spreading of exaggerated reports or with exaggerations.
For a fact check on the content, Wolf recommends copying the headline of the news story and typing it into Google search. If various, 20-30 sides, spread the same message, this is to be enjoyed with caution. "A journalistic text with serious sources is not mass copying."
The "supreme discipline" is the image check, says Wolf: "I have to ask myself: Do the images match the content??"Often one has to deal with so-called "hybrid fakes" on the Internet. Image and text are each real, but the context in which they were created is different, he says. For example, after the New Year’s Eve attacks against women in Cologne, a video was circulated that originally came from Cairo. One must then critically ask oneself: "What do I see on the video, can this be true??"
Google search "images" could sometimes be used to find out the context in which a photo was taken. To the right of the search line there is a camera icon that allows you to either upload a picture or paste the URL of a picture. "Google then spits out parallel sites, and so it can sometimes be determined when the picture was taken and where."Search engines continue to offer search filters that can be used: size of the image, rights of use, how long the image has been in circulation.
It is also possible to recognize social bots – although not as easy as that. Manipulative social bots deliberately searched for negative portrayals, for example, about refugees and retweeted them. The dangerous thing: They seem as human as possible. "They post thus also times a Katzenbildchen or put also times rest phases and post nothing at all."The only way to decide if they are fakes is to engage them in a conversation. " They might answer, but in a very rudimentary, vague and evasive way."Moreover, they often presented themselves according to the same implausible pattern. "We call this the ‘Joan of Arc principle’: the profile picture shows a confident, young, pretty woman with a penchant for defensive sports," Wolf says. The profile presents itself like an icon and as if it had a well-founded political opinion.
Finally, Wolf appeals to the ability to reflect and criticize: if an assertion serves fears, it always seems credible. "Felt truths are readily accepted."