Fake news, disinformation and misinformation has made its way into the lives of humans for decades. But, of course, social media has proliferated the reach of disinformation and fake news at an entirely different scale. As Russia’s censorship and propaganda techniques intensify during the conflict against Ukraine, reports of fake news surrounding the situation are also intensifying.

Surfshark's Information Security Officer Aleksandr Valentij shares four tips on how to safely track important news without falling for fake news:

1.    Check for primary sources. In the case of the Russia/Ukraine conflict, a reputable source may be the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, verified media outlets, or intelligence information. In general, readers should be looking for the primary or original source of information and take into account the independence of the source.

2.    Learn reverse image search. Looking at Google’s “visually similar images,” security leaders and any reader can see when a picture was first posted. For example, if an image with a news article purports something that happened now, but the image itself is several years old, that is a red flag for fake news. Reverse image search can also tell the user if an image has been shared on a reputable website or was manipulated in any way.

3.    Read the metadata. Metadata can tell people a lot about images or videos. Metadata gives users text information pertaining to an image or video file and can give clues to help people decide whether the news is real or manipulated: such as who owns the rights tot eh image, location of the image or video, administration of the image, and more.

4.    Use fact-checking resources. There are an array of fact-checking resources available. For the Ukraine invasion, for example, organizations such as the Australian Associated Press, RMIT/ABC, Agence France-Presse (AFP), and Bellingcat maintain lists of fact-checks their teams have performed on this subject.

While Valentij says that widely censoring social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook damages people's ability to get unbiased news, it's imperative that readers, uses, and of course, organizational business leaders conduct due diligence when it comes to information available on the internet. 

"Disinformation campaigns aim to distract, confuse, manipulate, and sow division, discord, and uncertainty in the community,” explains Valentij. 

But savvy stakeholders can stop the spread of fake news by knowing what to look for.