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Fake News: Identifying Fake News

Recognize Fake News

People who create fake news try to fool readers into thinking the information comes from a reputable source. Keep the following best practices in mind to make sure your information source is legitimate. Website evaluation tests, like the CRAAP test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose), are also useful. 

Some websites are created to mimic mainstream news sites:

  • Look for contact information with a verifiable address and affiliation.
  • Look for an About page, often in the header or footer of the home page. Read the About page closely for evidence of partisanship or bias.  If there's no About page and no Contact page, be very skeptical.
  • In staff listings (or on the About page), look critically at the list of executives. Are they real people or stock photos? Open a new tab and look for another profile of the individual (e.g. LinkedIn).
  • Perform an independent search for the news source. Compare and verify URLs.
    Example: http://abcnews.com.co/ (fake site) is not the ABC Network News http://abcnews.go.com, but the logo and the URL are almost identical.

Advertisements designed to look like news stories:

  • Look for labels: a corporate logo or a tiny statement indicating Paid Post, Advertisement, or Sponsored by. Advertisements may also have a tiny Ad Choices triangle at the upper right corner of an image.

Satirical news sites created for humor:

  • Satirical news sites attempt to mimic the look of mainstream journalism. If the content of the news article seems too outlandish or absurd, it might be satire. Research the website and author to determine if the article is legitimate.  
  • One of the most popular satirical news sites is The Onion.

How to Spot Fake News

  • Consider the Source - Click away from the story to investigate the site, its mission and its contact info.
  • Read Beyond - Headlines can be outrageous in an effort to get clicks. What's the whole story?
  • Check the Author - Do a quick search on the author. Are they credible? Are they real?
  • Supporting Sources? - Click on those links. Determine if the info given actually supports the story. 
  • Check the Date - Reposting old news stories doesn't mean they're relevant to current events.
  • Is it a Joke? - If it is too outlandish, it might be satire. Research the site and author to be sure. 
  • Check your Biases - Consider if your own beliefs could affect your judgment. 
  • Ask the Experts - Ask a librarian or consult a fact-checking site.

Information adapted from Cornell University Library's Fake News guide.

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