How to Spot Fake News

In a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, 64% of Americans say that fake news “has caused a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current events,” and 23% say they have spread fake news.

It’s getting harder and harder to tell what is true and what isn’t. Some people no longer read the news because they find it too difficult to determine the credibility of an article.

When we constantly doubt the validity of our news sources, it can be very tempting to dismiss all news and believe only what we want to hear. But as world chess champion Garry Gasparov said in a tweet, “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”

The following infographic from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions offers advice on how you can sharpen your critical thinking skills when it comes to the news.

How to Spot Fake News infographic

 

Fact-Checking Websites

But if you still can’t tell whether or not a story is real, there’s a good chance that one of the following fact-checking websites has already looked into it for you.

Infographic about fact-checking the news.

FactCheck.org
This nonpartisan project of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center aims “to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics” using the techniques of journalism and scholarship.

Politifact.com
A nonpartisan website run by editors and reporters from the independent newspaper the Tampa Bay Times, Politifact researches and rates statements made by politicians, rating them from true to false.

Snopes.com
In the past, Snopes has served as one of the oldest and most respected internet resources “for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.” More recently, the site has also begun fact-checking political stories. Snopes.com is an independent organization funded through ads.

The Washington Post Fact Checker
This regular column published by The Washington Post aims to “‘truth squad’ the statements of political figures regarding issues of great importance, be they national, international, or local.”

Browser Extension

B.S. Detector is a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that checks websites and Facebook news stories against the OpenSources database. If you visit a website or a story shows up in your Facebook newsfeed from a site that OpenSources lists as biased, satirical, or not credible, the B.S. Detector extension will provide a visual warning in red. Note that the warning only appears for sources listed in the OpenSources database; just because you don’t see a warning, you should not assume that the source is credible.

Ask a Librarian

Finally, remember that your librarians are happy to help you evaluate and research the credibility of an article. We know it’s crazy out there, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed. Let’s all work together to stop the spread of fake news. 

For downloadable handouts on fake news and media bias, visit the Civic Lab web page.

Updated 11/20/18.