What you want to verify may not, of course, be a spoken or written claim but material – photos, videos, blogs or other content – sent to you or published online. In the digital age, photographs, video footage, text documents, websites and Twitter and other social media feeds can all be falsified. How to spot what is genuine and what is fake? These are our fact-checking tips:
Do the words or images ring true?
First things first, before even you start to look for evidence, the most important thing to do when sent material is to engage your brain. Do the images or words ring true? Is the language or sentiment expressed the way the person would talk? Is it the sort of thing they might really have said?
Colleagues understand when people are taken in by clever hoaxes. But if it is obvious, after the event, that the person quoted would never have been likely to say the thing that was quoted, and you did not check, you can look foolish.
So first, think. And then, if in doubt, check with the person or organisation quoted or shown to verify.
Is there a telling detail out of place?
Hoaxers are often let down by the details. Be sceptical always. The quote used in this cartoon is not wrong, but something should make you realise it was probably not the 19th century US president who said it.
Look at the phrase used and ask if that could have been said at the time. Look at the photo or video and ask whether it abides by the laws of light and shade. Are there things you can see in the background that should be there that aren’t or shouldn’t be there and are. Does the weather shown reflect the weather you would expect in that place, at that time of year? Are the views, plants, cars, buildings the sort you would expect to see?
If the details are out of place, it may be a hoax.
Has it – or something similar – appeared elsewhere before?
Unlike lightning, hoaxers often do strike twice If you are suspicious about an image or text, check online to see whether it – or something similar – has appeared elsewhere before.
Run a search on Twitter referring to the material with the hashtag ‘fake’ and see if others on Twitter have spotted something too.
If it is text you think might have been used before, drop it into Google search.
If it is a photo, or video free-frame in PNG format, drop it into a website such as www.tineye.com which allows you to check photos or videos to see whether they might have appeared online previously. If the same image, or one very similar, has been published previously in different circumstances, what you have been sent may be a fake.
Has the person filed material elsewhere
Remember people often use the same username on various platforms, so if you are searching for similar material from one person, put their username into different platforms such as Google Search, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, 123people.com, blogsearchgoogle.com, Technorati.com.
Check the person who sent it is where they say they are
If you have doubts about the source of some information, and have the numerical address – the IP code – of the computer it came from, you can check the country the computer is located in it you enter that into this address: www.domaintools.com/reverse-ip/