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How To Spot Fake News

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How to Spot Fake News

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How To Spot Fake News

“Fake news” used to be a relatively uncommon problem, but over the last decade, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing consumption of news and articles has caused misinformation to run wild.

Far from a new concept, misinformation and cherry-picked stories have been used throughout history as a form of propaganda or information warfare. However, the rise of social media as a hub for sharing articles has spread “fake news”—false or misleading information presented as legitimate news—all over the internet.

Fueled further by increasing polarization, as well as the use of the term by former U.S. President Donald Trump to also refer to negative coverage (whether legitimate or misinformed), it seems more difficult than ever to separate trustworthy from misleading sources.

With this in mind, we combined guidance from non-profit journalism project First Draft News and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) to create this guide for understanding “fake news” and how to spot it.

The Different Types of “Fake News”

In order to spot fake news, you have to know the many forms misinformation can take.

Not all fake news is created equal, or even with the intent to deceive. Some start as opinions or jokes that become misunderstood, twisted over time, and eventually turn into misinformation. Others begin with the sole purpose of deception.

Online Misinformation From Least Intentional to Most

  • Satire/Parody
    Articles or videos created to mock or laugh at an issue. If created without being an obvious parody, these types of articles can still fool readers and be shared as “real.”
  • False Connection
    Stories with headlines, visuals, and captions that don’t support the content. Sometimes the cause is an honest mistake or poor journalism, but other times the false connections are deliberate to draw more attention.
  • Misleading Content
    Misleading use of information to frame an issue or individual, especially one not involved in the story. This can be caused by poor journalism or political influence, but is also caused by opinions being shared as news and the increasingly blurring line between the two.
  • False Context
    Genuine content that is shared with false contextual information, such as an incorrect date or a misattributed quote. This type of misinformation can still appear on news sites with poor fact-checking or opinion-based reporting, but is clearly driven by an agenda with an attempt to influence.
  • Imposter Content
    When genuine sources are impersonated in order to deceive the audience. Though this type of misinformation is used in parody, it is also used for profit and propaganda purposes, such as by sites disguised to look like news organizations or using fake credentials.
  • Manipulated Content
    The deliberate manipulation of information, such as digitally altering an image or making up quotes. This type of misinformation is easily proven fake with some research, but can spread too far before it is fact-checked.
  • Fabricated Content
    Newly created false content designed to deceive and do harm. These include deepfake videos and sites posing as legitimate news organizations.

Despite many types of misinformation appearing to be obvious at a glance, it’s harder to discern when browsing online. In a 2019 global survey on social media by Ipsos, 44% of people admitted to being duped by fake news at least once, while others may have been duped unwittingly.

And one reason is that fake or provocative news are simply being spread further, and more maliciously. A recent study of one Facebook bot farm found close to 14 thousand bots published around 200 thousand posts each month.

How To Tell If An Article is “Fake News”

With many types of misinformation to contend with, and trust in media organizations falling in the U.S. and around the world, it might seem like you’re surrounded by “fake news,” but there are a few things you can check to be sure.

  • The Source
    Investigate the site to make sure it’s legitimate, and check its mission and its contact info to understand if it’s news, satire, or opinion.
  • The URL
    Be wary of unusual top-level domain names, like “.com.co” that are designed to appear legitimate, such as ABCnews.com.co.
  • The Text
    Does the article have spelling errors or dramatic punctuation? This can be an easy find for simple fabricated content, as most reputable sources have high proofreading and grammatical standards.
  • The Information
    Read past click-baity headlines, note who is (or isn’t) quoted, and verify the information on other sites. This is also a good way to separate opinion pieces from news.
  • The Author
    Check the author’s bio and do a quick search on them. Are they credible to write about their story? Are they real?
  • Supporting Sources
    Click on the supporting links, and perform reverse searches on images. Do they actually support the story, or are they irrelevant (or worse, manipulated).
  • The Date
    Sometimes older news stories are shared again and gain traction because of current events, but that doesn’t mean they’re relevant or accurate.
  • Your Bias
    Especially with the rise of opinionated journalism and websites profiting from polarization, consider the intended audience for this story and if your own beliefs could affect your judgement.
  • The Experts
    If a story feels flimsy, or doesn’t seem to be properly cited, consider asking an expert in the field or consulting a fact-checking site.

More than anything, consider that outrageous misinformation has an easier time spreading on the internet than boring real news. An MIT study found that false stories on Twitter were 70% more likely to get retweeted than accurate news.

But armed with knowledge about what “fake news” looks like, and with increased pressure on news organizations, the tide can be turned back in the favor of accurate news.

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Mapped: Corruption in Countries Around the World

Which countries are the most (and least) corrupt? This map shows corruption around the world, and the movers and shakers over the last decade.

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Mapped Corruption in Countries Around the World Share

Mapped: Corruption in Countries Around the World

How bad is public sector corruption around the world, and how do different countries compare?

No matter your system of government, the public sector plays a vital role in establishing your economic mobility and political freedoms. Measuring corruption—the abuse of power for private gain—reveals how equal a system truly is.

For more than a decade, the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by Transparency International has been the world’s most widely-used metric for scoring corruption. This infographic uses the 2021 CPI to visualize corruption in countries around the world, and the biggest 10-year changes.

Which Countries are Most (and Least) Corrupt?

How do you measure corruption, which includes behind-the-scenes deals, nepotism, corrupt prosecution, and bribery?

Over the last few decades, the CPI has found success doing so indirectly through perceptions.
By aggregating multiple analyses from country and business experts, the index assigns each country a score on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

Here are the results of the 2021 CPI, with the least corrupt countries at the top:

Corruption Perception by CountryScore (2021)
Denmark88
Finland88
New Zealand88
Norway85
Singapore85
Sweden85
Switzerland84
Netherlands82
Luxembourg81
Germany80
UK78
Hong Kong76
Austria74
Canada74
Estonia74
Iceland74
Ireland74
Australia73
Belgium73
Japan73
Uruguay73
France71
Seychelles70
UAE69
Bhutan68
Taiwan68
Chile67
U.S.67
Barbados65
Bahamas64
Qatar63
Portugal62
South Korea62
Lithuania61
Spain61
Israel59
Latvia59
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines59
Cabo Verde58
Costa Rica58
Slovenia57
Italy56
Poland56
Saint Lucia56
Botswana55
Dominica55
Fiji55
Georgia55
Czechia54
Malta54
Mauritius54
Cyprus53
Grenada53
Rwanda53
Saudi Arabia53
Oman52
Slovakia52
Armenia49
Greece49
Jordan49
Namibia49
Malaysia48
Croatia47
Cuba46
Montenegro46
China45
Romania45
Sao Tome and Principe45
Vanuatu45
Jamaica44
South Africa44
Tunisia44
Ghana43
Hungary43
Kuwait43
Senegal43
Solomon Islands43
Bahrain42
Benin42
Bulgaria42
Burkina Faso42
Belarus41
Timor-Leste41
Trinidad and Tobago41
India40
Maldives40
Colombia39
Ethiopia39
Guyana39
Kosovo39
Morocco39
North Macedonia39
Suriname39
Tanzania39
Vietnam39
Argentina38
Brazil38
Indonesia38
Lesotho38
Serbia38
Turkey38
Gambia37
Kazakhstan37
Sri Lanka37
Cote d'Ivoire36
Ecuador36
Moldova36
Panama36
Peru36
Albania35
Bosnia and Herzegovina35
Malawi35
Mongolia35
Thailand35
El Salvador34
Sierra Leone34
Algeria33
Egypt33
Nepal33
Philippines33
Zambia33
Eswatini32
Ukraine32
Gabon31
Mexico31
Niger31
Papua New Guinea31
Azerbaijan30
Bolivia30
Djibouti30
Dominican Republic30
Kenya30
Laos30
Paraguay30
Togo30
Angola29
Liberia29
Mali29
Russia29
Mauritania28
Myanmar28
Pakistan28
Uzbekistan28
Cameroon27
Kyrgyzstan27
Uganda27
Bangladesh26
Madagascar26
Mozambique26
Guatemala25
Guinea25
Iran25
Tajikistan25
Central African Republic24
Lebanon24
Nigeria24
Cambodia23
Honduras23
Iraq23
Zimbabwe23
Eritrea22
Congo21
Guinea-Bissau21
Chad20
Comoros20
Haiti20
Nicaragua20
Sudan20
Burundi19
Democratic Republic of the Congo19
Turkmenistan19
Equatorial Guinea17
Libya17
Afghanistan16
North Korea16
Yemen16
Venezuela14
Somalia13
Syria13
South Sudan11

Ranking at the top of the index with scores of 88 are Nordic countries Denmark and Finland, as well as New Zealand.

They’ve consistently topped the CPI over the last decade, and Europe in general had 14 of the top 20 least corrupt countries. Asia also had many notable entrants, including Singapore (tied for #4), Hong Kong (#12), and Japan (tied for #18).

Comparatively, the Americas only had two countries score in the top 20 least corrupt: Canada (tied for #13) and Uruguay (tied for #18). With a score of 67, the U.S. scored at #28 just behind Bhutan, the UAE, and France.

Scoring towards the bottom of the index were many countries currently and historically going through conflict, primarily located in the Middle East and Africa. They include Afghanistan, Venezuela, Somalia, and South Sudan. The latter country finishes at the very bottom of the list, with a score of just 11.

How Corruption in Countries Has Changed (2012–2021)

Corruption is a constant and moving global problem, so it’s also important to measure which countries have had their images improved (or worsened).

By using CPI scores dating back to 2012, we can examine how country scores have changed over the last decade:

Change in Corruption by Country10-Year Trend (2012-2021)
Seychelles+18
Armenia+15
Italy+14
Greece+13
Myanmar+13
Guyana+11
Uzbekistan+11
Estonia+10
Latvia+10
Belarus+10
Saudi Arabia+9
Kazakhstan+9
Laos+9
Timor-Leste+8
Vietnam+8
Afghanistan+8
North Korea+8
Taiwan+7
Lithuania+7
Senegal+7
Cote d'Ivoire+7
Angola+7
Sudan+7
South Korea+6
Slovakia+6
China+6
Jamaica+6
Benin+6
Ethiopia+6
Indonesia+6
Nepal+6
Ukraine+6
Papua New Guinea+6
Austria+5
Ireland+5
Bhutan+5
Czechia+5
Oman+5
Montenegro+5
Kosovo+5
Paraguay+5
Iraq+5
Somalia+5
United Kingdom+4
Costa Rica+4
Burkina Faso+4
India+4
Tanzania+4
Ecuador+4
Georgia+3
Sao Tome and Principe+3
Tunisia+3
Colombia+3
Argentina+3
Gambia+3
Sierra Leone+3
Azerbaijan+3
Kenya+3
Kyrgyzstan+3
Tajikistan+3
Zimbabwe+3
Trinidad and Tobago+2
Morocco+2
Suriname+2
Albania+2
Turkmenistan+2
Luxembourg+1
Germany+1
Uruguay+1
United Arab Emirates+1
Jordan+1
Namibia+1
Croatia+1
Romania+1
South Africa+1
Bulgaria+1
Egypt+1
Russia+1
Pakistan+1
Cameroon+1
Guinea+1
Cambodia+1
Haiti+1
Chad+1
Norway0
France0
Rwanda0
Moldova0
Togo0
Bangladesh0
Burundi0
Hong Kong-1
Japan-1
Portugal-1
Israel-1
Malaysia-1
Kuwait-1
Serbia-1
Mongolia-1
Algeria-1
Philippines-1
Denmark-2
Finland-2
New Zealand-2
Singapore-2
Switzerland-2
Netherlands-2
Belgium-2
Cabo Verde-2
Poland-2
Cuba-2
Ghana-2
Panama-2
Peru-2
Malawi-2
Thailand-2
Niger-2
Dominican Republic-2
Uganda-2
Central African Republic-2
Democratic Republic of the Congo-2
Sweden-3
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines-3
Dominica-3
Malta-3
Mauritius-3
Sri Lanka-3
Mexico-3
Mauritania-3
Iran-3
Nigeria-3
Eritrea-3
Equatorial Guinea-3
Spain-4
Slovenia-4
North Macedonia-4
El Salvador-4
Zambia-4
Gabon-4
Bolivia-4
Guinea-Bissau-4
Libya-4
Chile-5
Qatar-5
Brazil-5
Eswatini-5
Mali-5
Mozambique-5
Honduras-5
Congo-5
Venezuela-5
United States of America-6
Djibouti-6
Madagascar-6
Lebanon-6
Bahamas-7
Lesotho-7
Bosnia and Herzegovina-7
Yemen-7
Iceland-8
Guatemala-8
Comoros-8
Bahrain-9
Nicaragua-9
Canada-10
Botswana-10
Barbados-11
Turkey-11
Australia-12
Hungary-12
Liberia-12
Cyprus-13
Syria-13
Saint Lucia-15
FijiN/A
GrenadaN/A
VanuatuN/A
Solomon IslandsN/A
MaldivesN/A
South SudanN/A

The biggest climber with +18 was Seychelles, Africa’s smallest country and also its least corrupt with a score of 70. Other notable improvements include neighboring countries Estonia, Latvia, and Belarus, with Estonia rising into the top 15 least corrupt countries.

On the opposite side, both Australia (-12) and Canada (-10) have actually fallen out of the top 10 least corrupt countries over the last decade. They’re joined by decreases in Hungary (-12) and Syria (-13), which is now ranked as the world’s second-most corrupt country.

Which countries will rise and fall in corruption perceptions over the next 10 years, and how do your perceptions compare with this list?

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Mapped: Economic Freedom Around the World

The global average economic freedom score is at the highest its been in 27 years. Here we map the economic freedom score of nearly every country.

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Map of Global Economic Freedom

Mapped: Economic Freedom Around the World

How would you define a country’s economic freedom?

The cornerstones of economic freedom by most measures are personal choice, voluntary exchange, independence to compete in markets, and security of the person and privately-owned property. Simply put, it is about the quality of political and economic institutions in countries.

Based on the Index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Organization, we mapped the economic freedom of 178 countries worldwide.

Measures of Economic Freedom

The index uses five broad areas to score economic freedom for each country:

  1. Size of Government: Greater government spending, taxation, and bigger government agencies tend to reduce individual choice and economic freedom.
  2. Legal System and Property Rights: The ability to accumulate private property and wealth is a central motivating force for workers and investors in a market economy, and well-functioning legal frameworks protect the rights of all citizens.
  3. Sound Money: Does earned money maintain its value, or is it lost to inflation? When inflation is high and volatile, individuals can’t plan for the future and use economic freedom effectively.
  4. Freedom to Trade Internationally: Freedom to exchange—in its broadest sense, buying, selling, making contracts, and so on—is considered essential to economic prosperity. Limited international trading options significantly reduce the potential for growth.
  5. Regulation: When governments utilize tools and impose oppressive regulations that limit the right to exchange, economic freedom typically suffers.

World Economic Freedom by Region

In 2021, the global average economic freedom score is 61.6, the highest its been in 27 years.

But from Mauritius and smaller African nations being beacons of hope to East Asian and Oceanic countries epitomizing economic democracy, every region has a different story to tell.

Let’s take a look at the economic freedom of each region in the world.

Americas

Even though the U.S. and Canada continue to be some of the most economically free countries globally, some markers are suffering.

The regional average unemployment rate has risen to 6.9%, and inflation (outside of Venezuela) has increased to 5.2%. The region’s average level of public debt—already the highest globally—rose to 85.2% of its GDP during the past year.

Map of Economic Freedom in the Americas

Across many Latin American countries, widespread corruption and weak protection of property rights have aggravated regulatory inefficiency and monetary instability.

For example, Argentina’s Peronist government has recently fixed the price of 1,432 products as a response to a 3.5% price rise in September, the equivalent to a 53% increase if annualized.

Europe

More than half of the world’s 38 freest countries (with overall scores above 70) are in Europe. This is due to the region’s relatively extensive and long-established free-market institutions, the robust rule of law, and exceptionally strong investment freedom.

However, Europe still struggles with a variety of policy barriers to vigorous economic expansion. This includes overly protective and costly labor regulations, which was one of the major reasons why the UK voted to leave the EU.

Map of Economic Freedom in Europe

Brexit has since had a major impact on the region.

Even a year later, official UK figures showed a record fall in trade with the EU in January 2021, as the economy struggled with post-Brexit rules and the pandemic.

Africa

Dictatorships, corruption, and conflict have historically kept African nations as some of the most economically repressed in the world.

While larger and more prosperous African nations struggle to advance economic freedom, some smaller countries are becoming the beacon of hope for the continent.

Map of Economic Freedom in Africa

Mauritius (rank 11), Seychelles (43) and Botswana (45) were the top African countries, offering the most robust policies and institutions supporting economic self-sufficiency.

From property rights to financial freedom, small African countries are racing ahead of the continent’s largest in advancing economic autonomy as they look to build business opportunities for their citizens.

Middle East and Central Asia

When Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords last year, there was a sense of a new paradigm emerging in a region with a long history of strife.

A year into the signing of this resolution, the effects have been promising. There have been bilateral initiatives within the private sector and civil society leading to increasing economic and political stability in the region.

Map of Economic Freedom in Middle East and Central Asia

Central Asian countries once part of the Soviet Union have recently starting integrating more directly with the world economy, primarily through natural resource exports. In total, natural resources account for about 65% of exports in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and more than 90% in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Despite this progress, these countries have a long way to go in terms of economic freedom. Uzbekistan (108), Turkmenistan (167) and Tajikistan (134) are still some of the lowest-ranked countries in the world.

East Asia and Oceania

Despite massive populations and strong economies, countries like China and India remain mostly unfree economies. The modest improvements in scores over the last few years have been through gains in property rights, judicial effectiveness, and business freedom indicators.

Nearby, Singapore’s economy has been ranked the freest in the world for the second year in a row. Singapore remains the only country in the world that is considered economically free in every index category.

Map of Economic Freedom in East Asia and Oceania

Finally, it’s worth noting that Australia and New Zealand are regional leaders, and are two of only five nations that are currently in the “free” category of the index.

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