The Internet has revolutionized how we create, process, and share information. Anyone can create a website or social media account and it is becoming even easier to make websites that look professional. The digital age and Web 2.0 has resulted in consequences for the truthfulness and verifiability of news and information on the Internet. As of recent, fake news has risen to the forefront. Social media is ripe with sensationalist stories that are designed to get a rise out of people who may just read the headlines and share stories without critically analyzing the content themselves.
IFLA created a useful infographic to help verify the reliability of news sources online. We break it down further to help you identify fake news.
CONSIDER THE SOURCE - Investigate who created the website. A good indicator that a website is a fake news site is a .com.co domain (.co added to trick people into believing they are at reputable news site). Check the site on the list of "False, Misleading, Clickbait-y and/or Satirical "News" Sources below to verify it's a legitimate or perhaps satirical news source.
READ BEYOND THE HEADLINE - Before you share that link on social media, read the article itself. Check if it has references, or what other articles are included on the website. Check for shocking or crude advertisements (real websites likely do not advertise adult-related content). If all the news articles and/or ads on the site seem crude or outlandish, it's probably fake or heavily biased news.
CHECK THE AUTHOR - Real journalists will often have an online presence. Check to see if you can find a real Twitter or LinkedIn page, or other stories by the author. If you cannot find any other details, you may be looking at fake news.
SUPPORTING SOURCES? - Investigative journalists will often support their articles with plenty of supporting sources. Fake news sites only reference their own site or other fake news sites. Verify the credibility of the supporting sources included (including images and graphs) and make sure they match up with what the author is claiming.
CHECK THE DATE - Sometimes fake news will use real events or images to present a false representation of events. Check the date on images, supporting sources, and the article itself to determine how current the facts presented are.
IS IT A JOKE? - Satire sites exist, and more and more are created everyday. The most obvious are The Onion and The Beaverton. Do a quick search around the page (for example, find an "About Us" section) to determine if the site explicitly states it is satire.
CHECK YOUR BIASES - Check to see if what you're reading is simply verifying your own biases. If you find yourself agreeing with an article, check yourself to make sure you aren't just agreeing because what is written is what you want to read and expect to hear.
ASK THE EXPERTS - If you aren't sure, ask a librarian for help! Librarians can help you evaluate the information you find. Contact the library today for additional help.
All media has some degree of bias. Click the links below for more information on bias in media.
Are you an instructor looking educate students on the importance of fact checking and media literacy? Do you want your students to be aware of the ethical production and use of information? Librarians can lead sessions on the critical creation, evaluation, and use of information. Book a library instruction session.