• After receiving wide criticism for failing to clamp down on fake news during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Facebook decided to take action. It collaborated with the nonprofit First Draft to create a tip sheet on spotting false news.

Headlines about the new coronavirus floating around your social media feed over the last few months. The outbreak of misinformation is not only making it difficult for people to get accurate information about COVID-19 it’s also creating an “infodemic” that’s eroding trust in the healthcare system at large.

So how can people perceive facts from fiction online?

The answer might be relatively easy, at least according to the results of a recent study. Researchers found that a tip sheet sent to Facebook users was effective at helping people spot false headlines.

The simple intervention might be one key to fighting belief in bogus posts about COVID-19 as well.

Why is fake news so uncontrolled right now?

Misleading social media posts are nothing new, but many have been popping up regarding the new coronavirus and the recent protests. People are more likely to believe the information they read if it appeals to their emotions, especially during a time of crisis and uncertainty.

How to spot fake news

Dubious information is being presented in increasingly polished ways that make it a challenge to avoid. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to spot fake news as you’re scrolling through your feed:

Cross-check the information. Outlandish headlines aren’t always false, but you might need to do some extra investigation to prove they’re true. Check if other mainstream news sources are reporting similar information before buying into it.

Read the comments. If something seems off about an article, check the comments, said Shah. “If you see a string of comments calling out a story, that’s your first sign that maybe this isn’t as accurate as you thought it was. If you see the thought-provoking conversation in the comments, that’s a sign that it’s more accurate.

Think critically about the source’s intentions. Mainstream news outlets have a mission to keep the public informed with accurate information. That’s not true for companies trying to sell you products or ideologically motivated profiles trying to influence your views, both of which could spin the news to reflect their agenda. Understand a source’s motivation for publishing or sharing something to frame your opinion on the trustworthiness of that information.

Share with care. When you share an article or a post from someone else, you’re pushing their agenda to your followers. Make sure the content you share is accurate and authentic before spreading the message to others.

Don’t use social media for your news. Anything can be shared on social media. An official news aggregator, like Google News, can show you stories from more trustworthy sources and a variety of perspectives.