How to Have a Conversation with Someone Who Believes Fake News

Young people have asked us how they should approach a conversation with someone who believes fake news. So, as part of Global Media and Information Literacy Week, we've listed some things to remember when taking part in these types of conversations. These conversations could happen with friends, family or someone you've just met, they could happen in person or on social media. But whoever you're talking to you can follow these tips!

False information that is spread online is known as misinformation or disinformation. These are most commonly referred to as 'fake news' or 'hoaxes' (NSPCC)

1. Stay calm

Arguments are more likely to happen if you put your ideas forward in a confrontational way. Being rude and overly dismissive of their opinion will only result in them getting annoyed at you. Hear what they are saying and be respectful. Repeat points they've made to demonstrate that you're listening to their view. Then calmly talk about your opinion on the topic and explain why you disagree. Try to avoid a disagreement getting heated and remember to take a break from speaking about a particular topic if you need to! 

2. Have empathy

We are emotional beings and often have strong emotional attachments to our beliefs. Therefore, people could feel rejected if you just tell them they're wrong. Look for common ground and try to understand how they've reached their opinion. Put yourself in their shoes and try to ask if you'd believe the same things if you'd had the same experiences as them.

3. Be patient

People can take a long time to alter their opinions so remember to be patient. Part of living in a free society like ours is that we all share different opinions. Your conversation may inspire them to do more research but don't expect them to have changed their mind by the end of the conversation! 

4. Encourage critical thinking

If they don't seem convinced by your point of view you could talk about strategies for checking if a source is reliable and if the information is true. 

Check out our article all about Fact Checking. It includes some tips on how to identify if the information is accurate as well as a list of fact-checking websites you can use.

5. Ask questions

Remember to ask questions and not just talk about your point of view. You could try asking:

  • What is the original source?
  • Who wrote it?
  • What evidence do they use?
  • What is their motivation? 
  • In what ways are they biased?
  • Has the information been reported anywhere else?
  • What do other sources say?

Find out more about fake news and staying safe online on our Digi Know? page.