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Real vs. Fake News: Detecting lies, hoaxes and clickbait

Avoid Fake News in 3 Easy Steps

1. Know which "news" sites are likely to be fake or biased

Lists have recently circulated of some less than trustworthy news sites. Here are a few to consider: 

  • Assistant Professor Melissa Zimdars, from the University of Iowa, recently evaluated and compiled a list of news sites that are often misleading, "clickbait-y" or satirical. 
  • Media Bias/Fact Check is dedicated to evaluating online news sources for bias and credibility. Check out the "questionable sources" page for their list of fake news sites. 

* These lists are guidelines and are open for debate. You should critically evaluate all sources. 

2. Know how to spot common features of fake "news" articles

With practice, you can learn to recognize features of fake news articles such as:

  • Strange URLs 
    • Example: websites that end in “lo” or ".com.co" may be trying to pass themselves off as established news sites (ex: msnbc.com.co)
  • Authors with a history of writing fake or misleading news
    • Click on the author's name to see if you can find other articles written by the author and information on their credentials or affiliations.
  • Provocative, inflammatory or misleading headlines
    • Read beyond the headline. Does the story match the claims in the headline? Does the headline exaggerate? 
  • Outdated information being presented as current information
    • Is an article that was recently published discussing an event from many months ago? 
  • Lack of verifiable sources
    • Ethical journalists make it clear where they are getting their information.
  • Poor grammar
    • This may be evidence that the article has not gone through an editorial process. 
  • Pictures or quotes that are untraceable
    • Pictures and quotes may be manipulated or made up. Use TinEye reverse image search to find the origins of images. 

See the articles below for more tips:

3. Understand the Echo Chamber Effect of Social Media and Make a Habit of Seeking Out a Wider Variety of Voices

An echo chamber or filter bubble is the result of website algorithms designed to determine which content you want to see and which you don’t, based on your past behavior and other information about you. Over time, the web content you see represents an increasingly narrow range of information and ideas, and you are exposed to fewer and fewer experiences, ideologies, and perspectives that differ from yours.

To get out of your own filter bubble:

  • Disable Google’s Personalized Search: Click “Settings” on the lower right of the Google search page, and select “History” from the menu. Click on “Activity Controls” from the left menu, then uncheck the box next to “Include Chrome browsing history and activity from websites and apps that use Google services.”
  • Seek Out Information From A Range of Credible Sources: Start by exploring some of the sources on the “Finding Reliable News” page of this guide.
  • To get a better sense of the range of opinions on a news topic, use AllSides, a news services that “exposes bias and provides multiple angles on the same story so you can quickly get the full picture, not just one slant.”
  • Try The Tips In These Articles: