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Political Science: Fake News

Help! My News is Fake!

Whom or What Can You Believe?

Did your mother call you to tell you that liberals hate science?

Did your Facebook feed pop up with an article on a new pesticide that's going to kill us all?

Did one of your friends breathlessly tell you that president Donald Trump was going to pardon mass shooter Dylann Roof

You might have heard any or all of these stories, but there's one thread connecting all of them: they're not true.

The ability to tell accurate news from fake news is an important skill that you'll use for the rest of your life.  This guide will give you valuable insight in telling fact from fiction online, plus a chance to exercise your newfound skills.

How Do You Know?

What makes a news story fake?

It can't be verified
A fake news article may or may not have links in it tracing its sources; if it does, these links may not lead to articles outside of the site's domain or may not contain information pertinent to the article topic.

Fake news appeals to emotion
Fake news plays on your feelings - it makes you angry, happy, or scared. This is to ensure you won't do anything as pesky as fact-checking.

Authors usually aren't experts
Most authors aren’t even journalists, but paid trolls.

It can't be found anywhere else
If you look up the main idea of a fake news article, you might not find any other news outlet (real or not) reporting on the issue.

Fake news comes from fake sites
Did your article come from Or These and a host of other URLs are fake news sites.

What Kinds of Fake News Exist?

Claire Wardle has identified seven types of mis- and disinformation that can produce fake news. These are ranked by the intent to deceive from least to most:

  1. Satire or Parody: Not intending to cause harm but possibly deceptive.
  2. False Connection: Where headlines, captions or visuals are not supportive of the content .
  3. Misleading Content: Misleading use of information to frame a person or issue.
  4. False Context: Genuine content is shared with false contextual information.
  5. Imposter Content: Genuine sources are impersonated. 
  6. Manipulated Content: Genuine information is manipulated to deceive.
  7. Fabricated Content: Content is completely false and designed to deceive and do harm.

Assessing the quality of the content and the motivation of the source is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or false, unbiased or intentionally misleading. It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

How Can I Avoid Fake News?

Check the source
s it a .com? .org? .edu or .gov? Is the source from a Google search or did you use an academic database?

Use the CRAAP Test
Does the article have Currency, Relevance, Accuracy, Authority and Purpose?

Check the claims in the article 
Can you follow up with them using reputable sources?

Question everything
Does the site have ads? Is the source from a think tank or nonprofit that has a stake in the subject of the article? What's the author's background?

Check any links in the article
Do they actually lead to​ information that verifies something in the article?

What's Wrong With Fake News?

Why should you care about whether or not your news is real or fake?

  1. You deserve the truth. You are smart enough to make up your own mind - as long as you have the real facts in front of you.  You have every right to be insulted when you read fake news.
  2. Fake news destroys your credibility. If your arguments are built on bad information, it will be much more difficult for people to believe you in the future.
  3. Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people.  Purveyors of fake and misleading medical advice like and help perpetuate myths like HIV and AIDS aren't related, or that vaccines cause autism. These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.
  4. Real news can benefit you. If you want to buy stock in a company or are planning on voting in an election, you might want to read as much good information as possible to make the most informed decision.  Fake news will not help you make money or make the world a better place, but real news can.


This guide has been adapted from content provided by Pace University, Indiana University East, Trinity Washington University, Duquesne University

OCC is committed to empowering our students to succeed and advancing our community.
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