Many news sites apply little or no basic veriﬁcation to the claims they pass on. Instead, they rely on linking-out to other media reports, which themselves often only cite other media reports as well. The story’s point of origin, once traced back through the chain of links, is often something posted on social media or a thinly sourced claim from a person or entity. Among other problems, this lack of veriﬁcation makes someone easy marks for hoaxsters and others who seek to gain credibility and traﬃc by getting the press to cite their claims and content.
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. The most important thing to do when sent a material is to engage your brain.
Most media organizations utilize a range of hedging language and attribution formulations to convey that information they are passing on is unveriﬁed. Headlines are frequently used to express the unveriﬁed claim as a question.
Ultimately, it is up to users to spend the time to fact check information that is presented to them and to use discretion before sharing something that could be inaccurate. Until technology can catch up with this problem, it is the responsibility of the platforms and the users to remain vigilant and to share content that is legitimate and factual.