Scaremongering via WhatsApp – how you protect yourself and others from fake news

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Through social networks and messengers, fake news is spreading at a rapid pace. Especially via WhatsApp. Whether it’s political untruths, pandemic news or other social issues. False news can divide the population, incite hatred and hatred. So that you don’t become part of fake news campaigns, you can easily protect yourself. We give you good research sources and tips here.

Especially just before elections, such as the presidential election in the USA or in federal and state elections in germany, interest groups deliberately publish fake news on the Internet and via WhatsApp. But even in times of crisis situations, such as a pandemic or an increased influx of fleeing people from other countries, groups use digitalization to spread fake news in order to incite fear and hatred and thus achieve goals in a very perfidious way.

The messages are often spread via the popular WhatsApp messenger, which is used by millions of people worldwide. Voice messages, screenshots with supposed headlines or chain letters are often used to spread false information. With these signs, you should exercise caution and check carefully before forwarding:

  • The messages often start with a questionable “document”, i.e. “My friend’s brother works at the Ministry of Health / in the Bundestag / with a critical infrastructure and has “secret” information that no one should know”
  • prompts you to send the message to all contacts as quickly as possible
  • It is claimed that an important human asset is in danger
  • It calls for something to be ‘protected’, such as your family, democracy, the legal system or our free life and freedom of expression.
  • The message makes you nervous while reading and stoking fears
  • The message is such a sensation that the forwarding impulse is immediately present “Kitchen call” (Have you heard THAT? That’s an absolute unding!)

Such messages spread so quickly because they play specifically with people’s feelings and emotions. This is the tool that is used for dissemination. But what should we do now? What if the message is correct and you want to warn others urgently? Keep calm and follow four steps:

1. Use serious sources and understand the claim

  • The Tagesschau illuminates with the ARD Fact Finder current fake news
  • The non-profit organization “Corrective” researches facts about fake news
  • Has this source ever been associated with fake news in the past?

2. Checking facts

How realistic does the popular message actually feel? Do others on the Internet report about it? Perhaps the above institutions are already dealing with the issue and what does the Twitter community say about it?

Check quotes: Especially bitter in fake news is often the fact that quotes and O-tones are completely taken out of context. This means that the quote is true, but perhaps it was expressed years ago on a very different subject. It is best to enter the quote in the full text search (i.e. with quotation marks) on Google and check if it has ever appeared elsewhere.

As soon as false reports are circulating, affected companies or scientific institutions react with an opinion that revises the notification. It is best to check the company’s official website or Twitter page immediately after receiving a possible hoax.

3. Check pictures

Similar to the quotes used in fake news, it’s like images. Due to sophisticated image editing possibilities, photos can be deceptively real retouched and thus falsified. This is where Google reverse image search helps. In the browser, you can use the Google Image Search and uploads the corresponding photo. You will then see very quickly whether the picture actually looks quite different.

4. Check timeliness

The timing of a statement is also extremely important in times of false news. Facts are constantly changing, politicians or researchers make numerous statements over the course of their careers. Here also the Google full text search or the image search help to find out when a quote or photo first appeared on the net.

More ways to catch up with fake news

With the klicksafe.de page, the European Union has created an extensive information portal with which you can further inform yourself about security on the internet. The brochure “Fact or fake? How to expose fake news on the Internet” (Link leads to PDF) gives you important tips at hand.

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