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Misinformation, Disinformation & Fake News

This guide will help you understand misinformation using useful checklists, fact-checking tools, library resources, and other sources.

How to spot Fake News

"How to Spot Fake News," a brief article from by Eugene Kiely and Lori Robertson, provides some good tips on spotting fake news. Tips from the article include:

  • Examine the site's URL for oddities.
    • For example: mimics the real ABC News website, but .co is the domain code for the country of Columbia. A guide to Internet domain codes may be found here.
  • If it seems like a joke, it probably is.
    • Most satire news either features specific disclaimers about what it is or includes other obvious clues, like a source or author name that cannot be taken seriously. If unsure, follow the story back to its source and consider that source's array of stories as a whole.
  • Check the authorship.
    • If an author is listed, you should be able to check his/her credentials. One way of doing this is by searching for the author on LinkedIn.
  • Read multiple sources.
    • Search for the same story coming from other sources. Stories of more than very local or specialized importance are usually reported or commented on by more than one source; professional news is a very competitive industry.
  • Scan for spelling/grammatical errors.
    • A story coming from a legitimate source may have one or two that got away from the editor, but they may be rife in a fake story. This is partly due to a lot of fake news being generated internationally.
  • Scan for language that deals heavily in superlatives and extreme figures of speech.
    • A dead giveaway is the use of ALL CAPS, as respectable news sources only make use of it on rare occasions, such as in the context of a quote.
  • Check links.
    • A fake news writer may throw in a few to reputable sources, possibly assuming that most readers won't bother to investigate further. Clicking on these links may show them to be broken or leading back to another source without going directly to the page or story cited.

Fact Checking Strategis

Fact checking information is something anyone can do. It does take time, but fact-checking before you share may save you and others a lot of headache later if the fact seems unclear or questionable. While there are many fact-checking strategies you can use, one of our favorites comes from Michael Caufield's Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers. He calls them: 4 Moves and a Habit

Here's how Caufield describes what those moves and a habit look like:

  1. Check for previous work: Look around to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research.
  2. Go upstream to the source: Go “upstream” to the source of the claim. Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information.
  3. Read laterally: Read laterally.[1] Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.
  4. Circle back: If you get lost, hit dead ends, or find yourself going down an increasingly confusing rabbit hole, back up and start over knowing what you know now. You’re likely to take a more informed path with different search terms and better decisions.