Fake News Invasion

How Can News Be Fake?

Some false stories have been shared over 2 million times on social media. Buzzfeed has compiled a list of the 50 most shared fake news stories here. Have you fallen for any of these? 

The ability to tell accurate news from fake news is an important skill that you'll use for the rest of your life. The term "Fake News" sounds like an oxymoron, right? How can it be both Fake and the News, which is meant to be a presentation of investigated facts and truthful information? This guide will hopefully help you navigate the murky world of news, propaganda, satire, and sometimes outright lies that can be found on the internet. 

What Makes a News Story Fake?

1. 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 (URL address) or may not contain information pertinent to the article topic.
Check snopes.com to see if the story has already been reported as false or partially false.

2. Fake News Appeals to EmotionIt's a Fake

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

3. Authors Usually Aren't Experts

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. You can easily Google or check LinkedIn to see just how much of an "expert" this author may be.

4. 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. OR if it's on a different site it is leading back to the same URL address.

5. Fake News Comes from Fake Sites

Did your article come from a news site but has .co after it? This are false sites playing off of a reputable site.
Or from a site in which the address proclaims "real news", "the truth", "not fake". If a site has to claim they are telling the truth most likely they are trying to mislead you.



What Kinds of Fake News Exist?

There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.

CATEGORY 1:Social Media
Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.

Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information

Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions

Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news
Learn which sites are truly satirical spoofs such as Wisconsin's own The Onion.

Fake NewsNo single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.) 

Some articles fall under more than one category.  Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not.
It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.


How to Fact-Check Like a Pro

1. Is it Old?

Like eggs and milk, information can have an expiration date.
In many cases, use the most up-to-date information you can find.

2. Consider the Source AND Check the Sources of Information

When an article cites sources, check them out!
Sometimes, official-sounding associations are really biased think tanks or only represent a fringe view of a large group of people.
If You can't find sources, search withing vetted DATA BASE tools and read as much about the topic as you can.

Check snopes.com to see if the story has already been reported as false or partially false.

3. Is it a Joke?Misinformation

If what you're reading seems too good to be true, or too weird, or too reactionary, it probably is.

4. Trace the Image

TinEye and Google Images can both reverse image search to find out exactly where an image came from.
First right-click on an image and copy image location.
Then paste that image URL into the the search box to see the results of how and where that image has been used online.

5. Is it Biased?

Does the article seem to lean toward a particular point of view?
You may not be getting the whole story, only one interpretation.

6. Check the Author

Is the author specialized in the field that the article is concerned with?
Does s/he currently work in the field?
Check LinkedIn or do a quick Google search to see if the author is legitimate? Better yet put the author's name in one of the MHS databases to see if they have written anything else.


Creative Commons LicenseThanks to KT Lowe, librarian at Indiana University East, for creating the original guide of which this one is based.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Please feel free to share this guide with others.  If you are a librarian, you are welcome to use this guide and its contents for your own purposes

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