The Northern View reporter, Jenna Cocullo, questioning the news she reads online. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Newspapers matter reason 55: No fake news. Here’s how to spot fake news online

For National Newspaper Week we want to help our reader spot fake news. #NewspapersMatter

The organization that represents newspapers in Canada has a new tool to help readers distinguish fact from fiction online.

News Media Canada, of which Black Press Media is a member, launched a media literacy tool called SPOT Fake News Online, a four-part questionnaire readers can use when consuming news.

The four simple questions are:

S: Is this a credible source? Check the source of the article – and be skeptical.

P: Is the perspective biased? Think critically and look for varying viewpoints on an issue.

O: Are other sources reporting the same story? Be your own fact-checker and verify the validity of the story.

T: Is the story timely? Check the date the story was published. Sometimes, stories use old information to take advantage of a timely occurrence.

READ MORE: Rupert Rampage kicks off National Newspaper Week with a special contest for you

New Media Canada CEO John Hinds said the tool was designed to be straightforward enough for people of all ages to use it, with the help of media experts who focus on media manipulation and bogus news reports.

READ MORE: Use of fake social media bots in Alberta election will come to federal vote: experts

“Fake news is often used as an umbrella term for misleading, false or fabricated information,” Hinds said. “It can surface in different shapes, sizes and formats: from false stories to manipulated photos or altered videos.”

According to recent polls by Ipsos, Earnscliffe Strategy Group and MIT researchers, nearly all Canadians have come across misinformation online, yet only 40 per cent feel they know how to identify it.

The polls also suggest 90 per cent of Canadians admitted to having fallen for fake news, and only a third of them regularly check to see if the stories they’re consuming are legitimate.

Hinds warned the tool won’t help those simply looking to debunk views they don’t agree with.

“The term ‘fake news’ is often used incorrectly, to discredit or dismiss information that people don’t like or agree with. SPOT Fake News Online is intended to help build citizens’ critical thinking and preparedness and increase their resiliency to disinformation,” he said.

The program is being funded through Canadian Heritage’s Digital Citizen Initiative.

Meanwhile, the non-profit Canadian Journalism Foundation has launched its own tool to fight fake news. The “Doubt It?” campaign is a collection of online quizzes and public service announcements from Canadian media personalities such as retired CBC host Peter Mansbridge.

– with a file from Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press

READ MORE: Poll suggests Canadians concerned about fake news, but struggle to spot it

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