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Fake News and the Post-Truth Era: Evaluating Information

Tips for spotting Fake News

How can you tell fake news from credible news? What are the red flags? 

If one or more of the following characteristics is present in a news story, it is very likely fake. 

  • You only see the story on social media (Twitter, Facebook) and few, if any other, reputable news sources are covering the same story. 
    Look at other reputable, respected news sources. Are they covering the same story? Probably not.
    What reputable, respected news sources should you consult? This is, by no means, a complete list, but try these:
    • The New York Times
    • The Washington Post
    • The LA Times
    • Wall Street Journal
    • BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)
    • NPR (National Public Radio) 
    • And other major U.S. news outlets, such as NBC, ABC, CBS or CNN  
       
  • Fake news stories tend to use emotionally charged language. 
    Does the source convey an upsetting tone? Does it attempt to make the reader angry, fearful or sad? Does it incite or call for rash action on the part of the reader, such as doxing individuals?

     
  • Fake news sources typically have unusual or odd domain names and/or url tags.
    Does the domain name itself attempt to strongly brand its website? (Infowars, AddictingInfo, ConspiracyWire, ImmediateSafety) Does the url end in .co (ABCNews.com.co) or .de (CNN.com.de)? 

     
  • Little to no information about the author/source is provided.
    Transparency is a pre-requisite for credibility. 'Writers' for fake news sites will often re-use and re-package content from other sites (and other authors) with no attribution. If the news source does not provide information about the author, you should be wary of its legitimacy.  

     
  • Fake news stories are often proliferated from fake social media accounts
  • How to spot a fake Twitter account:
    • Take a closer look at the account. Does it only have a few posts in its history? Has the account been active for only a short period of time? If so then it's probably fake.
  • How to spot a doctored photo:
    • Use Google Reverse Image Search or TinEye to reverse-search an image.
      • To use Google Reverse Image Search, go to Google Image and click on the camera icon in the search box. Copy-and-paste the photo's url, or upload the image.   

Find Quality Websites

Citing survey statistics from public opinion polls that support your argument is a powerful and persuasive tool. Use simple Keyword terms to search this site! 

Pew Research Center

Did that politician really steal money from the poor?? Will opening that email really give my computer a virus?? In today's always-on, socially-connected world, fact-checking is more relevant than ever. Start with these six vetted sources: 

Snopes.com   
FactCheck.org
PolitiFact.com
OpenSecrets.org
TruthOrFiction.com
HoaxSlayer.com

BONUS!
Hoaxy 
Great way to visualize the spread of fake news and discover its biggest sources.

* Example: Results from a search for Clintons pedophile

Tired of Google's overkill? Tame it! Use the    site:    operator! Here's how:

Type    site:gov    OR    site:org    OR    site:edu

Then add your search terms to make Google only give you back results from governmentorganizational, or college/university sites.

Ex.    site:gov childhood obesity statistics 

Use the C.R.A.A.P. Test  to determine whether or not a website is credible.

Currency: The timeliness of the information. 
When was the information published or posted? 
Has the information been revised or updated? 
Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well? 
​Are the links functional?

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs. 
Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question? 
Who is the intended audience? 
Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)? 
Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use? 
Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority: The source of the information. 
Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor? 
What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations? 
Is the author qualified to write on the topic? 
Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address? 
​Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content. 
Where does the information come from? 
Is the information supported by evidence? 
Has the information been reviewed or refereed? 
Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge? 
Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion? 
Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists. 
What is the purpose of the information?
Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade? 
Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear? 
Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda? 
Does the point of view appear objective and impartial? 
Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

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Source Evaluation in Action!

When you click on a potentially fake news story, what questions should you be asking yourself?

Take a look at this succinct, yet incredibly useful guide from the Albuquerque and Bernalillo County Public Library: Lets check a claim!