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Hot Topics: Fake News and Misinformation: Identifying Fake News
Now that you're familiar with misinformation and the myriad types of "fake news," what are the basic steps you can take to identify misinformation?
Does the article make you feel very strongly about the subject?
Does it make you angry? Does it make you want to take immediate action and share the article? Take these responses as reasons to look deeper into the article. Fake or misleading news articles rely on our emotional responses to spread farther.
Do your diligence
Look up the site or source on lists of known fake news sites.
Does the article you've found list an author or authors? What are their credentials? Are they well respected? By whom?
Read the "About Us" page. Who are the owners, writers, publisher, etc.? What are their credentials? Are they well respected? By whom? Who is affiliated with the organization? Note: This portion of the site may also identify it as satire.
What do you learn about the site/owner/author/publisher when you search them on Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Wikipedia?
Can you find the same topic covered by other, reputable news sources?
Do other reputable news sources portray the event in similar ways?
If it seems like big news but is the only source of coverage, take pause.
Can you identify strong bias? Any topic will likely be covered in a variety of ways, and taking this step will help you place the article in context.
Accuracy in Journalism
What should you expect from journalism?
Journalists often use checklists to ensure that each piece of reporting is reliable and high quality. These lists will give you a sense of what you can expect from a reputable news source. To build your own fact checking skills, the online course is a good way to learn more.
Part of the NPR Ethics Handbook, this checklist reminds journalists of their expectations for accuracy and professionalism.
Books take time to be published, so most current information about "fake news" is available as articles or other news sources. However, books can provide excellent historical information about misinformation, disinformation, and the information society.
Use these links to help you evaluate known stories on a variety of subjects. They can serve as examples of how people have attempted to research unclear, uncertain, false, misleading, or inaccurate claims.
Note: Do these sources have bias? Remember to corroborate what you find in fact checking sites as you would with other claims.
Are you trying to figure out if a website hosts fake news? Check out this list from Melissa Zimdars at Merrimack College, where she tracks current reports of websites and evaluates them for accuracy and bias
Browser extensions allow you to modify your online experience. Here are some browser extensions that can help you spot fake news while searching the web. Keep in mind that none of these tools is perfect, but you might find one or more to be fun (and useful), along with your own critique of news sources you encounter.
SurfSafe is a Chrome browser extension that fights fake news by identifying images that have been altered. Hover over an image, and SurfSafe scans its database for a match. Note that a drawback is if an image doesn't exist in their database, they're unable to confirm whether an image is fake, Photoshopped, etc.