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.

Participants at Lunch & Learn: How to Spot Fake News agreed that it’s getting harder and harder to tell what is true and what isn’t, and some admitted that they 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. You can find out more about the sites by downloading the Fake News Handout from Lunch & Learn.
The Washington Post Fact Checker

Other Resources

You can also check the OpenSources database to see if the source is listed as credible or not credible. OpenSources’s “mission is to empower people to find reliable information online.” A team of researchers led by Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College is working to “provide a continuously updated database” that evaluates the credibility of news sources. 

But if that’s too much work, try B.S. Detector, a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that checks websites and Facebook news stories against OpenSources’s 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, as the infographic above suggests, 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.