The internet is great for quickly spreading news all over the world. Unfortunately, it also makes it possible to spread false stories and I too have been burned by taking seriously stories that later turn out to be hoaxes. But how does one tell truth from fiction? One option is to simply wait. The more widespread a story becomes, the more likely it is that someone will investigate it and issue a debunking if warranted. But if you do feel the need to act on the story quickly, Pete Brown, a research fellow at the University of Oxford, supplies six ways for you to investigate it yourself.
It turns out that although we are all aware of the wealth of information on the internet, there is another layer of information just below the surface that could prevent you from falling victim to a hoax.
1. Since many of the hoaxes come in the form of images, a reverse image search can give you information about the first appearance of an image, since many hoaxers use old photos to buttress a new story.
2. When it comes to YouTube videos, it is possible to look for ‘scrapes’, the term for “an old video, which has been downloaded from YouTube and re-uploaded by someone who fraudulently claims to be the original eyewitness, or asserts that the video depicts a new event.”
3. For photographs taken with digital cameras and smartphones, it is also possible to get “metadata about the make of the camera used, and the date, time and location the media was created.”
4. You can also check if part of the image was modified in some way or ‘photoshopped’.
5. For weather-related hoaxes, it is possible to find out what the weather was like at a particular place, date, and time.
6. The location of a suspicious video or photograph can also be found using any reference points or distinctive landmarks.