The keys to verifying social media

On social media, each individual builds up a profile which may or may not match the reality. Some of the accounts we follow on a daily basis on our mobiles, tablets or computers may be fake, pretending to be someone else, or might have interests that are not clear and transparent. And so in order to have a healthy “timeline” or “wall”, based on reliable accounts, it is important to learn the keys to verifying both the profiles and the content that they post on social media.

1. Suspect

On social media we follow plenty of people who we know in person. But what about those we have never seen? Do they really exist? Are they posting proven information, or trying to take us in? The Internet can be a jungle, and you should always tread carefully.

2. Verify in three clicks

In a context of virtual relationships, as in social media, it is important to pay close attention and examine the identity of the poster and the type of content. Is there anything suspicious? Does the post really exist, or is it a manipulation? Who is posting it? Is the content consistent? We suggest three verification steps: 3, 2, 1… action!

Are you being hoodwinked?

The first thing to do is to see whether the post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or some other social media network really exists, or is a manipulation born out of a dose of creativity, a touch of malice and a tool such as Photoshop. There are sites which allow you to create false tweets or other content similar to social media posts, although fortunately there are also plenty of tricks available to uncover such deceits. To check whether you are being hoodwinked or the post is real, we recommend three tricks:

Check the official account: An easy and almost infallible method. If you are sent a photo or screengrab of someone saying something on Twitter, Instagram or another social media network and you want to check it, this is quite straightforward: go to their account and check whether the content exists. Use the search tools to trace and find the post.
Links, the DNA of content: On almost all social media platforms, every post has a link: each tweet, Facebook wall or Instagram post has a link leading to it. If you are sent a link, then the content exists. If you are sent an image, it may be that the tweet or some other post has been manipulated. How to get the link? On Twitter, for example, you should click on the date and time. (Powtoon video)
What I meant to say was: Social media is impulsive by nature. Sometimes people regret what they have posted and delete the contents. How can you tell if they said it and deleted it, or they never said it and it is being wrongly attributed to them? Permalinks, or ‘permanent links’, show links that may no longer exist, and many fact-checkers now use them. There are also initiatives such as politwoops.eu and Internet Archive available to help.

Who's who?

If the content exists, the next question is: who is posting it? Is it a reliable source? So as to assess a social media profile putting out content, you need to ask yourself the right questions:
• Is the account verified? Here is an explanation of verified Twitter accounts.
• Is it a personal or anonymous account?
• Is it serious or a parody?
• Is it pretending to be some other person, media outlet or institution?
• Assess the different elements: Does the account have a properly compiled biography, with a description and links? Have they tweeted or posted before? Is it consistent? Is it active on other media platforms? Who does the account follow and who is it followed by?

PANTERA method

And once you have checked that the publication exists and you know who is publishing it, then it is time to roar and apply… the PANTERA method. Click on yellow circles (in Spanish).

3. Warn and don't share

It is very important to act responsibly and not to use WhatsApp or the social media platform you are on to share anything you do not trust. Whether because the profile strikes you as suspicious or because the content sets alarm bells ringing, do not virally spread lies, but instead know-how about digital verification.

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