Do you believe everything you read online?

“You can’t believe everything you read on the internet.” – Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was right!  There is a whole lot of misinformation out there.  Some of it is unintentional and well meaning, but a lot of it is created deliberately to misinform you.  Sure sometimes it’s just silly things, like the above quote from Abraham Lincoln.  He died in 1865, so of course he didn’t actually say that but it’s easy to read something like that and believe it to be true.  We wanted to share a real quote from old Abe, but even some of the more believable quotes commonly attributed to him like “Whatever you are, be a good one.” and “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” don’t seem to have been said by him after all upon further investigation.  They’re popular quotes though, and somebody said them at some stage.

So what about the deliberate misinformation, the disinformation, the ‘Fake News’?  Sometimes it’s half truths and deliberately omitting information and sometimes it’s almost completely fabricated for an agenda. Clearly this has much more serious consequences.  Let’s take a little look at some of what’s feeding the beast, the fake news phenomenon, what we can do about it and why we fall for it.

Confirmation Bias

We are all susceptible to some types of fake news.  The reason being that we are all more likely to believe something to be true if it confirms our pre-existing beliefs.  So if something sounds true to us, we might not hold the source to the same standards that we should.  We often ignore things that contradict what we believe.  Your own bias is something to consider when reading the news. Particularly about topics you feel strongly about.  Think about what happens next, do you tell somebody the thing you read without fact checking it?  Do they tell somebody else because they trust you? 

The Echo Chamber

Do you read a lot of news on social media?  Do your friends have the same beliefs and political leanings as you?  The pages you follow, the types of websites you visit all have an impact on what kind of content social media websites show you, and you are more likely to read things that will confirm your opinions.  Maybe you’re not being exposed to any new ideas.

Website Spoofing

You might be surprised at the lengths some people will go to fool you and spread fake news.  Basically they completely copy the design of a website, often news sites, so it looks almost identical to the BBC, or the Irish Times.  They will then write an article in a similar format, but it could be completely made up.  Eagle-eyed readers might notice there’s a slightly different font, or minor design difference, but most of us will assume it’s the website we expect it to be.  So always make sure to check the URL of a website to make sure it’s what you think it is if you have clicked a link to an article somewhere.

Sometimes these copy-cat websites just want to steal your sensitive information, so they will make it look like the log-in page for your email, or social media sites.  Be wary of entering your details anywhere unless you have entered the URL yourself and you know you are in the right place.

URL Spoofing

URL spoofing is similar.  There are different ways that this can be done.  Sometimes the link on social media looks like a proper link from a website you trust, but after you have clicked it you should check the URL because it might not be what it seems.  Double check you’re in the right place, because the URL could actually look very similar to the real one.  URL spoofing is another way to steal your sensitive information

Donegal Youth Service is currently working on the ‘Get It Right’ Project.  Get It Right is an exciting new European Project between Romanian Youth Movement for Democracy (RYMD), Donegal Youth Service (DYS) and Inter Alia Greece. The partnership between RYMD and DYS is well established since 2009 and the partnership with Inter Alia is a new venture for DYS. Get It Right is funded through Erasmus+ KA2 – Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices.  The Project focus is on media literacy and providing an opportunity for young people to examine the concept of Fake News. 

Contact Donegal Youth Service on (074) 91 29630, e-mail, visit, or call in to us at 16-18 Port Road, Letterkenny.  We are also on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.  Donegal Youth Service is a registered charity.  Charity No.  CHY 15027.


This interview was originally published in The Leader.  Donegal Youth Service have a column in each issue – available bi-weekly on a Thursday.  Pick up a copy today!  Available countywide.


confirmation biasecho chamberfake newsMedia literacyquotesthe internetURL spoofingwebsite spoofing

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