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.
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 abcnews.com.co? Or mercola.com? Realnewsrightnow.com? These and a host of other URLs are fake news sites.
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:
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.
Check the source
Is it a .com? .org? .edu or .gov? Is the source from a Google search or did you use an academic database?
Check the claims in the article
Can you follow up with them using reputable sources?
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?
Why should you care about whether or not your news is real or fake?