How to ‘SPOT Fake News On-line’

    TORONTO, ON: News Media Canada has launched a new media literacy tool to help Canadians identify “fake news” on-line.

    News Media Canada president John Hinds said the “SPOT Fake News On-line” campaign is targeting on-line information in particular.

    “It’s harder in traditional media to have fake news, just because most traditional media does have some journalistic [integrity]; you can see where it’s coming from, it has brand identification,” Hinds explained. “With on-line news, it’s very difficult, in many cases, to see where it’s coming from and who’s producing it. It’s a huge issue on-line. It’s also easier to create news on-line, and create false news on-line. It also doesn’t respect geographic or other boundaries.”

    The campaign is designed to prompt Canadians to ask themselves four simple questions when consuming on-line news and information: is this a credible source – check the source of the article and be skeptical; is the perspective biased – think critically and look for varying viewpoints on an issue; are other sources reporting the same story – be a fact-checker and verify the validity of the story; and finally is the story timely – check the date the story was published as sometimes, stories use old information to take advantage of a timely occurrence.

    “This is a program that we’ve worked with the Government of Canada on and they provided some initial support to it,” Hinds said. “One of the things we thought was really important was to provide our readers and our viewers with a quick tool that at least makes them aware of what is going on out there and gives them a way of identifying things that are likely to be fake news.”

    According to an Ipsos-Reid study, 63 per cent of Canadians have trouble distinguishing between legitimate Web sites and fake news stories, Hinds noted. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority found that 70 per cent of Canadians are concerned that fake news could impact the election outcome, which News Media Canada said is not surprising, since studies have shown that anywhere from 60 and 90 per cent of Canadians have – at one point or another – believed a fake news story they read on-line.

    While he is unsure how fake news will impact the upcoming federal election, Hinds said there are examples from the Brexit vote in Great Britain and the 2016 presidential election in the United States that it can have an impact.

    “We all know, we’ve all seen examples of fake news, and we’ve all had questions,” Hinds said. “When you talk to the security people, they tell you around elections in particular it’s been huge.

    “The political parties are meeting with the security people weekly to discuss the fake news issues. We’ve all seen there’s a lot of shady operators out there playing fast and loose with the facts and they pop up on social media.”

    Hinds believes the federal government has done as much as they can to combat faulty information and it’s now up to traditional media to drive the point home.

    “The best antidote to fake news is real news produced by people like you,” Hinds told The Reporter. “We have to make sure Canadians understand the newspaper industry in this country is still the biggest employer of journalists. Journalists are the people who are going to make sure that news is trusted and that they are producing credible fact-based news.”

    SPOT Fake News Online is a multi-faced and bilingual campaign that will be communicated to Canadians through an educational video, a new program microsite:, and a comprehensive national advertising campaign in News Media Canada members’ print newspapers and news sites. The campaign will conclude in March.

    For more information, visit the News Media Canada Web site at: or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.