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Help With ~ Evaluating Sources: Fake News

What is Fake News?

What is Fake News? There seem to be 4 main types of stories considered to be "Fake News":

  1. News stories that are completely fabricated
    1. Journalist Stephen Glass and his stories for New Republic
    2. Hillary Clinton and John Podesta in control of underground pedophilia ring
  2. Satire, fake works that are meant to be humorous
    1. The Onion
  3. Poorly-reported news that fits an agenda
    1.  The Washington Post publishing a story on Russians hacking the power grid. This story was an example of bad reporting but wasn't completely made up. The narrative of this story supported the mainstream media narrative of Russian hacking so The Washington Post did not properly check sources before publishing the story. The story was first edited and then later retracted.
    2. The Rolling Stone article on the University of Virginia gang rape accuser. This is a contentious issue that delves into the heart of issues relating to sexual assault on college campuses, but Rolling Stone has retracted their story after the author decided that the trust placed in the accuser was "misplaced"
  4. Misleading news designed to fit a narrative
    1. The story of Cameron Harris and his fake news machine: The Christian Times Newspaper

The Grey Area

Google and Facebook algorithms are designed to help you find or see information that you are interested in and it can create dangerous echo chambers where you only see information that falls in line with your point of view, even if it is a fringe opinion.

For Example:

Sponsored content and articles containing affiliate links are written with the goal of getting you to click on the article, not necessarily to inform you. Articles like these are sometimes called 'clickbait' and it's not just pop-news and sensational websites that do this. In some cases, sponsored content articles are not even written by the publication posting the piece.

For Example:

Verify that claim!

Use these resources to verify claims made:

  • AllSides- AllSides strives to present bias-free news and present multiple angles on the same story. Learn more about AllSides
  • PolitiFact- "PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the  Tampa Bay Times, an independent newspaper in Florida, as is PunditFact, a site devoted to fact-checking pundits. The PolitiFact state sites are run by news organizations that have partnered with the Tampa Bay Times. The state sites and PunditFact follow the same principles as the national site." Learn more about PolitiFact and their process
  • Snopes- A long time favorite for de-bunking urban legends, Snopes also fact checks more serious claims. Learn more about Snopes
  • Washington Post Fact Checker- Originally debuted during the 2008 election cycle, the Washington Post Fact Checker focuses on any statements by political figures and government officials in the United States and abroad. Learn more about the Washington Post Fact Checker.
  • FactCheck.orga nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. They monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Learn more about FactCheck.org.
  • The Poynter InstituteThe Poynter Institute develops resources for journalists and writers, plus offers resources on fact checking and media literacy for the general public. Learn more about The Poynter Institute. 

What to think about when thinking about the news

Elements of Fake News

Detecting Fake News

The News Literacy Project presents these 10 questions to help in fake news detection:

  1. Gauge your emotional reaction: Is it strong? Are you angry? Are you intensely hoping that the information turns out to be true? False?
  2. Reflect on how you encountered this. Was it promoted on a website? Did it show up in a social media feed? Was it sent to you by someone you know?
  3. Consider the headline or main message:
    1. Does it use excessive punctuation(!!) or ALL CAPS for emphasis?
    2. Does it make a claim about containing a secret or telling you something that “the media” doesn’t want you to know?
    3. Don’t stop at the headline! Keep exploring.
  4. Is this information designed for easy sharing, like a meme?
  5. Consider the source of the information:
    1. Is it a well-known source?
    2. Is there a byline (an author’s name) attached to this piece?
    3. Go to the website’s “About” section: Does the site describe itself as a “fantasy news” or “satirical news” site?
    4. Does the person or organization that produced the information have any editorial standards?
    5. Does the “contact us” section include an email address that matches the domain (not a Gmail or Yahoo email address)?
    6. Does a quick search for the name of the website raise any suspicions?
  6. Does the example you’re evaluating have a current date on it?
  7. Does the example cite a variety of sources, including official and expert sources? Does the information this example provides appear in reports from (other) news outlets?
  8. Does the example hyperlink to other quality sources? In other words, they haven’t been altered or taken from another context?
  9. Can you confirm, using a reverse image search, that any images in your example are authentic (in other words, sources that haven’t been altered or taken from another context)?
  10. If you searched for this example on a fact-checking site such as Snopes.com, FactCheck.org or PolitiFact.com, is there a fact-check that labels it as less than true? 

EasyBib has made this handy infographic for evaluating news articles:

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