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Fake News: How To Fact Check

Dig Deeper

Why should you be fact checking? Isn't what is reported on the news true? Aren't all articles and journals reviewed? 

News can swing a certain bias or it can be reported before all the facts come in. There could be errors or information that doesn't get reported when a story breaks. For some organizations quantity is better than quality. Others will purposely write reports or articles with outlandish, shocking titles and information to lure you in. This could be to influence views to a certain website for advertising revenue or to convince you to buy a product. Peer reviewed journals and articles take time and not typically in general Google searches. 

It comes down to the user to evaluate what they find and to check it. It might seem like a lot of work, but you, your work, and other users all benefit from fact checking. 

Check Like a Pro

Check Credentials - Is the author specialized in the field that the article is concerned with? Does s/he currently work in that field? Check LinkedIn or do a quick Google search to see if the author can speak about he subject with authority and accuracy.

Read the “About Us” section. Does the resource have one? It may be on a tab at the top of the page, or a link at the bottom of the page, but all reputable websites will have some type of About Us section and will provide a  way for you to conatct them.

Look for Bias - does the article seem to lean toward a particular point of view? Does it link to sites, files, or images that seem to skew left or right? Biased articles may not be giving you the whole story.

Check the Dates - Like eggs and milk, information can have an expiration date. In many cases, use the most up-to-date information you can find.

Check out the Source - When an article cites sources, it's good to check them out. Sometimes, official-sounding associations are really biased think tanks or represent only a fringe view of a large group of people. If you can't find sources, read as much about the topic as you can to get a feel for what's already out there and decide for your self if the article is accurate or not.

Use the CRAAP Test - Currency, Relevance, Accuracy, Authority, and Purpose

Interrogate urls - We see quite a bit of domain manipulation these days. For instance, what looks like an .edu domain, followed by .co or “lo” is likely a fake or deceptive site.  If you are you seeing a slightly variant version of a well-known URL, do a little investigating.

Who owns the website posting the information? - You can find out at either http://whois.domaintools.com or at https://whois.icann.org. Both of these websites allow you to perform a WHOIS search. Whenever someone registers a website address, they are required to enter their contact information. When you get to your WHOIS search, enter in the domain (the first part of the website URL). This step can be used to collect all the information when you question a source, or the informations purpose.

Suspect the sensational - When you see something posted that looks sensational, it is even more important to be skeptical. Exaggerated and provocative headlines with excessive use of capital letters or emotional language are serious red flags.

Judge Hard - If what you're reading seems too good to be true, or too weird, or too reactionary, it probably is.

Fact Checking Links

How to Spot Fake News

Avoid Fake News

Other Tips for Fact Checking and Avoiding Fake News

  1. When you open up a news article in your browser, open a second, empty tab.  Use that second window to look up claims, author credentials and organizations that you come across in the article.
  2. Fake news spans across all kinds of media - printed and online articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, radio shows, even still images. Be prepared to double-check everything.
  3. Beware of confirmation bias.  Just because you might agree with what an article is saying doesn't mean it's true.
  4. As Mad-Eye Moody said in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"Constant Vigilance!"  Always be ready to fact check.
  5. Even the best researchers will be fooled once in a while.  If you find yourself fooled by a fake news story, use your experience as a learning tool.

Practice

Take a look at these articles and evaluate whether or not they are fake or legitimately researched.