Telling lies is easy. Finding out the truth takes time.
Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, but often stories that seem preposterous are from fake news sources. Before you share a story, or cite it in your research, take some time to find out if it is real. Many people share stories before they even read them. Not all "fake news" is created equal. Misinformation are falsehoods that are unintentional, perhaps because of a reporting error, or because something was shared before it was properly verified. Disinformation is intentional with intent to deceive the receiver.
To find out more about fake news you can check out this topics page from Opposing Viewpoints in Context.
How can I tell?
Sometimes determining if news is fake is as simple as performing a Google search, other times you will need to do a little digging. Some fake stories may be based on a grain of truth, or based on a misunderstanding.
Take these steps before sharing an article:
- Read the article yourself - Not just the headline!
- Try searching these sites to find out if a story has already been "debunked".
Truth or Fiction
Media Bias Fact Check
Washington Post Fact Checker
RumorGuard -this website also has good information on how to learn to identify misinformation
AI can generate very legitimate-looking fake images. Take some time to verify what you are seeing.
Be especially wary of videos that have translations of languages you don't understand yourself!
- If you are still not sure if a site is legitimate look for an "about us" page - and read it! Some fake news sites will state openly that they are satire or for entertainment only. Is there information about a parent company? What can you find out about it?
- Check out other page links, if there are none, or if they do not lead where you expect, chances are the site is fake.
- Consider for yourself if the story is really plausible. Do you really think the president would sign a bill banning the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance? or that Texas has implemented Sharia Law?
- Check to see if any other (legitimate) news sources are reporting the same story. If not, chances are good that it is made up.
- Look at the quotes. Who said them? Does the reporter quote more than one source? What do you know about the people quoted? Can you find more information them?
- Consider what kind evidence the reporter provides in the story.
- Look for pop up ads, or other "clickbait". Fake news sources make their money through ads and getting readers to click on them.
- Look for words and punctuation that play on emotions. Disinformation is designed to evoke an visceral reaction. The excessive use of ALL CAPS or multiple exclamation points are clues that you are looking at fake news!!!
AllSides presents news stories from three viewpoints: the center; the left; and the right
The Interactive Media Bias Chart from Ad Fontes Media evaluates news sources on a scale of left to right, and reliability
Advertisements can masquerade as news stories. Ironically, although they may contain the words "paid content", "sponsored content", or "advertisement", clearly labeling themselves as an ad, many people still do not identify them as such. The "article" above is actually an ad that appeared in the Delaware County Daily Times. Note the words "Special Advertising Feature" at the top of the page.
Known Fake News or Satire Sources
Sometimes satire is mistaken for actual news. The Onion is strictly a source for satire and humor, however, some of its stories still get shared as real news by those who are unaware. Be dubious of any story from the following sources.
- The Onion (Satire)
- World News Daily Report (Fake News)
- The National Report (Satire)
- See more from Snopes.com - Fake News Sites
"Pink Slime" sites
There are over 1000 sites dedicated to producing fake or misleading news stories that look like legitimate local news sources. These may have names such as The Denver Guardian or The El Paso Review. They typically share automated news stories and are funded by political-interest groups. These sites proliferated during the 2020 election season, especially in swing states.
Deep Fake Videos
Deepfake videos are manipulated to make it appear that someone said or did something incriminating. They are called "deep fake" because they are hard to spot. Clues to look for are inconsistent eye movement, awkward posture, or abrupt changes, unnatural coloring of skin, hair, or teeth. and inconsistent audio. As artificial intelligence advances to both create and detect deepfakes it is worthwhile to do a little fact checking and consider for yourself whether something you see is even plausible.
Be aware of sites that mimic legitimate news sources. Often these will have .co at the end of their domain name. For example abcnews.com.co uses the abc news logo, but readers will notice stories that are less than credible, no publisher information, and links that do not work.