• 6 Tips to Spot An Online Hoax

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    One of the first things I learned in broadcasting school (and in turn taught my students) was to check and recheck your sources before you go with a story. The internet is full of stories that seem so real that most of us are tempted to share them without much thought. So today, I give you tips for budding reporters everywhere from Edward Lovett from ABC News:

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    One of the best things about the Internet is its power to spread and magnify compassion. We’ve all been touched by appeals to help a seemingly deserving friend or stranger, and many of us have shared a link or made a donation.

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    Of course, this power has led to hoaxes, and not just Nigerian bank scammers and other criminals. In 2012 Taryn Harper Wright, a Chicago commodities trader, used her spare time and energy to expose the Warrior Eli story — a heart-breaking case involving a boy with cancer whose mother died in an accident, with detailed descriptions and numerous photographs and Facebook pages — as a hoax perpetrated by an Ohio woman.

    Watch the full story on “20/20: Faking It” Friday at 10 p.m. ET

    Here are Wright’s tips for making sure you don’t get taken in. They’re mostly common sense — but evidently that’s no match for a skillfully used photo of an allegedly diseased child.

    1. Google them. Real people generally have real-life Google results, like something from a job, school or community activity.  If the only hits that come back are pages that were written by the suspected blogs, websites or Facebook profiles, be wary.
    2. Look carefully at the person’s pictures. Do they have only individual pictures of family members and no group shots? Do some pictures look like they could be two different people but are labeled the same individual? Are there lots of generic pictures taken at a distance or at the back of people’s heads that could be anyone?
    3. Run images through Google Image Search. It’s really easy to use. Go to Google, click on the image tab and then click on the little camera icon on the right side of the search bar. You can either enter the URL of the image or upload it from your computer. If that picture has been used elsewhere online, it will show up in the results.

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