How to fact-check viral post shared via WhatsApp
By Niyi Oyedeji
WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging platforms, with over 2 billion monthly active users.
Although, WhatsApp is helpful in staying connected with friends and family, but it is also being used to spread fake news and rumors.
The uniqueness of the encrypted messaging platform and groups, which are limited to 256 people really make it difficult for content to fly easily without knowing its source.
However, apart from being skeptical with anything you come across on the platform, there is need to also apply the following tactics in checking the veracity of any post you come across on WhatsApp:
Look for the ‘Forwarded’ tag
Oftentimes, fake news is always being shared as a forwarded post on WhatsApp.
Although, you cannot see the number of times a message has been forwarded, you can, however, see an arrow icon above the message together with the caption “Forwarded”.
Above is an example of a forwarded post we saw on WhatsApp that eventually turned out to be false after conducting our fact-check.
Although the ‘Forwarded’ tag does not necessarily mean that the message is false because the tag is added to all messages that are shared multiple times, but a message with the tag should raise red flags.
The following ways might help you determine the veracity of such message.
Whenever you come across any viral post on WhatsApp, there is need to check the social media accounts or website of the institutions and companies referenced in the forwarded message.
Several organisations often share information about their events and activities on their social media handles. In the same vein, they also debunk information that have been falsely attributed to them via same channels too.
For instance, when the above news of N-Power was in circulation, apart from the fact that we found out that the website attached to the news was entirely different from the one designed for the programme, we also realized that the information wasn’t shared on the website of the institution in charge of N-Power.
The official N-Power website is https://npower.fmhds.gov.ng, whereas the website in the viral post was “n-power-list.bid”.
Check Social Media
Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHDSD) debunked the fake news on their official verified Twitter account.
The N-Power programme is under this ministry.
Search for keywords in a post
Whenever you see any suspicious WhatsApp message, there is also need for you to Google search the keywords in it.
If such a post was attributed to a government organisation or large companies, the event therein could have been subject of a news story.
Organisations often update their activities to the Press.
For instance, if the Nigerian Government wants to employ 50,000 workers as seen in a viral post, the agency involved would have informed the press about such development.
In addition, if such claim has been a subject of a fact-check, you can come across such article through the Google search.
For instance, when you come across the above news that N-Power has shortlisted applicants for its programme, you can surf Google by simply typing: “N-power 2020 list”
From the screenshot, you can see that the first three feeds are from blogs that have nothing to do with the N-Power list. When you click each of the blogs, you will eventually realize that the list is not there and they only publish the news to gain traffic.
Reach out to fact-checking and major media organisations
You can also get in touch with fact-checking organisations like us, The FactCheckHub.
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Send any suspicious messages, memes, photos, videos or voice notes you receive to a fact-checking organisation in your country.
Once they publish a fact-check. You should endeavour to share the article in the original group where the content appeared to enable those who were exposed to the information know whether it is true or false.
In the past, we have received several news content (or information) from our audience who need clarifications. You can as well send us that viral WhatsApp post that is unclear to you to us via this link.
Use mobile tools for Images
In a bid to verify any WhatsApp message you come across, especially if it is a picture or video, there is need for you to adopt the usage of mobile tools to aid the verification. You can use mobile tools like Google reverse image search, TinEye or Yandex to verify images, while you use InVid to verify video content you come across on WhatsApp.