FAQ -Think critically about what you see online

1. Why am I seeing this information?

You might be receiving information online for different reasons. Social media algorithms filter the content you see according to certain criteria, such as user preferences or search history. The more you engage with an account or topic-specific content, the more you will see posts of this nature.

On social media, you may receive information from companies and organizations who pay for advertisements. These include invitations to “like” certain pages or posts from pages, as well as ads for products for sale that are often related to your search history. If you don’t like what you see, you have the choice on some platforms to hide or see fewer posts of a certain type/topic, and to stop seeing posts coming from a specific person or page.

a) Why would organizations or individuals try to mislead me?

Malicious cyber actors may try to mislead you to distract you from facts that are not aligned with their views and values. They could be trying to obtain your personal information to scam you or hijack your social media accounts. These organizations or individuals could even be looking to sell your personal information to a third party – which can have severe consequences.

Organizations and individuals could also try to mislead you to increase their online profile, expanding their reach and increasing the chance of influencing people around the world ‑‑ often either to purchase a (real or fake) service or item, or hoping to change opinions or views on various topics, institutions or individuals.

If you suspect that a website or seller is fraudulent, or that you may have been a victim of fraud, you can contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or your local police.

2. Is this message trying to influence me?

News and articles created by malicious cyber actors can try to blur your views by making you feel a certain way about institutions, individuals or groups.

Malicious cyber actors use tactics such as only presenting one side of a story, or compiling unrelated activities or actions and make them seem linked.

3. Is this message true and accurate?

Verify the information through multiple sources (i.e. accredited news websites) that have been recognized to be trustworthy. If few or no other sources cover the story, it may not be true. Most news reports cite their information from a direct source. If you’re skeptical, investigate the original source of the story to see if what you read matches how the media did their reporting.

4. Is this message still relevant?

Always look at the publication date of an article before sharing it. Don’t look at when the latest person shared it, but find the original source.

Additionally, look at the top or bottom of the article to see if there is a note that indicates that the content may have been edited since its original publication.

You can also search the news on search engines by publication time and date. By doing so, you can be sure to find the latest, relevant information – especially during fast evolving stories.

5. Should I trust this source?

Foreign and malicious cyber actors are becoming better, and more creative, at disguising their content in hopes that you will believe what you see. One of the ways to check if a website is legitimate is to look at the domain name or URL. What may look like a popular or trustworthy source, may be misspelt or omitting a letter or two to mislead the user.

Malicious cyber actors often create fake online profiles or hack into real people’s social media accounts. If you normally trust an information source that suddenly starts posting things that are not in their usual nature, they might have been hacked. If you are suspicious of someone’s identity on social media, search the platform for that same name. You may find many fake accounts using that name and even using the same profile picture.

Another way to see where the information is coming from is to see if the source has an ‘About the organization/company’ section and to see if they have a physical, existing location as well as contact information.

6. Should I share this?

Think before you share.

News and articles created by malicious cyber actors can try to blur your views by making you feel a certain way about institutions, individuals or groups. Malicious cyber actors use tactics such as only presenting one side of a story, or compiling unrelated activities or actions and make them seem linked

Read past the headline. To be catchy and draw more click sometimes headlines can be misleading and not really reflect the information in the story.

Check the source, publication date, and cross-check facts if there is any doubt in your mind. If you think before you share, you’re on the right track to stop the misinformation trend.

Related links

Get CyberSafe:

MediaSmarts:

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