How to Spot Fake NewsFebruary 21 , 2018
Staying informed is an important part of being an active citizen of any nation. But it's hard to do that when so much of the content being shared online contains everything from exaggerated claims to outright lies. Here are eight things you can do to help recognize fake news.
8 Ways to Spot Fake News
- Read the whole story: Not just the headline
- Look at the source: Make sure it's legitimate
- Research the author: Are they credible? Are they real?
- Examine the supporting sources: See that they back up the claims
- Check the date: It might be too old to be relevant
- Make sure it's not satire: Don't be fooled by a joke
- Consider your biases: Your beliefs aren't always true
- Ask the experts: See what the fact-checkers have found
Books About Fake News
- Fake News and Alternative Facts: Information Literacy in a Post-Truth Era by Nicole A. Cooke
- The True Story of Fake News by Mark Dice
- The Truth Matters by Bruce Bartlett
- Fake News, Truth-Telling and Charles M. Sheldon's Model of Accuracy by Michael Ray Smith
- Fake News: How Propaganda Influenced the 2016 Election by Kelly Carey
- Broadcast Hysteria by A. Brad Schwartz
The Flip Side: How NOT To Spot Fake News
Fake news is not a new phenomenon. People have been spreading misinformation for political or financial gain since the days of ancient Egypt. But with the rise of the Internet, the practice has become more relevant in recent years. Social media makes it easy for false facts to spread quickly among large groups of people. And since many of these hoaxes come from anonymously-hosted websites, it's hard to hold anyone responsible for instances of libel.
In this world of post-truth journalism, it's important for every individual to know how to verify whether or not a story is actually real. This can be difficult when a person is bombarded with a huge amount of information each day. Luckily, there are things you can do to identify fake news. Here are the eight steps you should follow with any piece of media you encounter.
#1: Read the entire story. This one might seem obvious, but many people let misleading or over-exaggerated headlines affect their opinions on nuanced topics. Often, the headline is meant to be sensationalist, since that makes it more likely that people with click on or share the link. But there are a lot of issues that can't really be summed up in a single sentence, and many reasonable statements sound bad out of context. So make sure you're getting all of the relevant details.
#2: Look at the source. Not all websites are created equal. Some are established institutions with dozens of editors and fact-checkers on staff. Others might be run by opinionated individuals who aren't backing their arguments up with actual facts. So go to the site's homepage and look for their mission statement and staff info page. And make sure they are who you think they are. Sometimes smaller companies use URLs that are very similar to the domains used by legitimate news organizations. For example, abcnews.com.co is not the same as the official site, abcnews.com.
#3: Research the author. Look at who wrote the piece and do a quick Google search about them. Is this person credible? Are they even real? If you find that they have a reputation for being manipulative or untruthful, then be sure to take everything they have to say with a grain of salt.
#4: Examine the supporting sources. Real journalists always cite any polls or studies that they used to inform their piece. Writers of false stories will often use official-sounding sources to make their claims seem more legitimate. Or they will use sources that are indeed official, but don't actually back up their claims. Follow those links and see what they have to say for yourself, rather than blindly trusting the article.
#5: Check the date. News doesn't have to be fake in order to be manipulative. Sometimes people will report on old stories as if they're happening now, even though they are no longer relevant to current events. For example, a website might report on a terror attack that occurred during a previous government's administration as if it had just happened. The event might really have occurred, but it's still dishonest to use it to criticize the current regime.
#6: Make sure it's not satire. There are plenty of satirical news sites online, including Private Eye in the UK and The Onion in America. These can be harmless sources of entertainment, as long as the audience is in on the joke. But sometimes these humorous articles aren't clearly labeled, and other times people just don't look close enough. So if you encounter a particularly outlandish claim, make sure it's not meant to be comedy before you start taking it seriously.
#7: Consider your personal biases. This one can be extremely difficult to do, but it's incredibly important if you want to stay truly informed. All people are more likely to believe any articles that confirm their beliefs and dismiss those that don't. But if you're aware of this bias, you can make a conscious effort to fight against it. A story that is damaging to a political figure that you dislike isn't necessarily true. And neither is a piece that makes your favorite celebrity look like a saint.
#8: Ask the experts. If your research has left you with more questions than answers, it might be time to turn to the professional fact-checkers. Sites like Snopes.com, FactCheck.org, and PolitiFact.com work hard to examine viral claims and see if there's any truth to them. So it's worth seeing what their research team has found.
Fake news and alternative facts may seem impossible to escape at times. With friends constantly sharing articles and videos on social media, it can be easy to take in a lot of information every day. If you don't think critically about it, you might end up believing some things that aren't true. So next time you come across a story, look a little closer before you click share.
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