Fight Fake News

November 29th, 2016 by Carol Spector Leave a reply »

You’ve likely seen the headlines decrying the proliferation of fake news and our collective inability to distinguish fact from fiction in the online environment. Don’t despair — Gleeson Library is here to help you navigate these treacherous waters. Fight fake news by recognizing it, steering clear of it, and never forwarding it. Friends don’t let friends forward fake news!

  • Do you recognize the source? If not, read the “About” section on the website AND look up the website on Wikipedia or Snopes for more information about the source.
  • Are known/reputable news sites also reporting on the story? While a lack of coverage could be the result of corporate media bias and other factors, there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
  • A photograph (or chart) can’t lie, right? Don’t fall into the trap of trusting a story just because it includes a photo or statistics. You need to track down and assess the source of images and figures, the same way you verify any news source.
  • The top hits in google are reliable, right? Don’t trust Google to evaluate your sources for you.  Attempts at developing a “truth algorithm” to rank results have been elusive — it turns out that truthfulness is an exceedingly challenging thing for a computer program to measure.
  • Bad web design or use of ALL CAPS? These are potential signs that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.
  • Website ends in “lo” (ex: Newslo)? These sites take pieces of accurate information and then package that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).
  • Website ends in “.com.co”? These sites are often fake versions of real news sources.
  • Web address is odd? If the web address is unusual or unrelated to the news reported, you may have untruthful news.
  • Lack of author attribution? This may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.
  • Bloggers on a news website? Some news organizations allow bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands, but many of these posts do not go through the same editing process.
  • The story makes you REALLY ANGRY? It’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.
  • What the “dox”? If a website you’re reading encourages you to DOX individuals (i.e., search for and share private information about someone, typically with malicious intent), it’s unlikely to be a legitimate source of news.

Many thanks to  Melissa Zimdars (a Communications Professor at Merrimack College) for her excellent list of tips, from which I borrowed heavily in compiling the above recommendations.

Have any tips of your own to share? Post them here on Gleeson Gleanings.

See also these recent articles on fake news:

Pacific Standard’s Meet the Professor Calling Out the Fake and Misleading News Sites Clogging Your Facebook Feed

NPR’s Students Have ‘Dismaying’ Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds

ED Week’s Why Students Can’t Google Their Way to the Truth: Fact-checkers and students approach websites differently

Search Engine Land’s The Trouble with Truth


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