Viral stories: How to know if news is real or just another hoax

There are some unbelievable stories circulating around social media today. No actually, they’re unbelievable, as in you shouldn’t believe them.
Stories from satirical websites and chain mail are being shared by many users of Facebook and Twitter among others, prompting fear and urgency for others, or in my case, annoyance.
Just last month, a story from empirenews.net about Coors Light being laced with cocaine made its rounds on the web.
Another common chain letter sent around is one where a supposed case of maggots growing in a woman’s bra after she traveled to Africa. However, the graphic and queasy photo that trypophobics should be warned about is actually a lotus pod Photoshopped onto the human body.
And then, of course, comes the ripple effect: One social media user believes the story is real and shares it on his/her page. Then, a few other gullible friends decide it’s real too, so they share the story on their pages for their friends to see. You know how the cycle goes.
So how do we differentiate between real and fake news provided on the internet? With so much information on the internet nowadays, it’s fairly easy for reality to become distorted.
One way is to do some research and not the time-consuming kind. Every satirical news site should identify itself as such in the “about us” section. If they don’t, there is a chance they’re liable for legal action.
Another way is to look and see if other news outlets are covering this story, such as your local newspaper or any major broadcasting affiliate (ABC, CBS, NBC, etc.). If they’re not covering it, chances are it’s not real.
And then there’s the easy way to find out, which is snopes.com.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love nicely written satire. You may see me share links to stories from The Onion. What grinds my gears is that some people don’t seem to know how to differentiate it from real news.
So here’s a list of the most common satire news sites spread across the web: The Onion, Empirenews.net, News Biscuit, The Spoof, Private Eye, NewsMutiny, Daily Currant, Empire Sports, Huzlers.
Some of these names may sound official (like empirenews.net) but as the old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
So please, when you read a shocking piece of news on the web, make sure it’s not just another piece of satire or chain stories designed to scare you. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

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