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VVC Library: Identifying Fake News

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Help! My News is Fake!

What is Fake News?

"Fake News" is deliberately misleading information that is presented as factual news in print, broadcast or online social media, such as Facebook. Fake news is used to deceive readers, influence politics, undermine the credibility of people or agencies, promote rumors or opinions, generate advertising revenue or provide satirical or humorous interpretations of real stories.

Fake news came to prominence after the 2016 presidential election, when fake news published on Facebook's news feed as political propaganda was interpreted by many to be accurate information. Students may rely on online social media and Internet sources for news, which makes it imperative to use critical thinking skills to judge the credibility and reliability of news sources.

Professional news sources are committed to a code of ethics for journalism standards. Traditional broadcast news sources such as ABC or CNN, and traditional print sources such as the Los Angeles Times do not report "fake news." Be aware that some sources present news that is biased toward a political philosophy. For example, Huffington Post presents news from a liberal point of view, while Fox News represents a conservative viewpoint.

How do you know?

Some types of fake news web sites (from OpenSources.co):

  • Fake News:  Sources that entirely fabricate information, disseminate deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports.
  • Satire: Sources that use humor, irony, exaggeration, ridicule and false information to comment on currents events.
  • Extreme Bias: Sources that come from a particular point of view and may rely on propaganda, decontextualized information, and opinions distorted as facts.
  • Junk Science: Sources that promote pseudoscience, metaphysics, naturalistic fallacies, and other scientifically dubious claims.
  • Hate News: Sources that promote racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.
  • Clickbait: Sources that provide generally credible content, but use exaggerated, misleading or questionable headlines, to encourage readers to share or click through a web site to maximize advertising revenues.

What kinds of fake news exist?

 Fact Check Web Sites

There are web sites that can be used to check the validity or credibility of sites, to obtain nonpartisan information, or official government resources or data.

  • FactCheck.org-- According to their  mission, this site is a "nonprofit, nonpartisan 'consumer advocate' for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics." It is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
  • FlackCheck.org-- Companion site to FactCheck, this political literacy site provides resources to help viewers recognize flaws in general and political ads. Videos cover topics related to politics, health and science.
  • Snopes.com--Independent fact-checking web site that researches urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation; validates and provides evidence supporting or debunking news stories.
  • PolitiFact.com-- PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials, candidates, leaders of political parties and political activists. Created by editors and reporters at the Tampa Bay Times and the non-profit Poynter Institute.
  • PunditFact -- This companion site to PolitiFact focuses on checking the accuracy of statements from pundits, columnists, bloggers, political analysts, the hosts and guests of talk shows, and other members of the media.
  • OpenSecrets.org-- Published by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, this site provides data and analysis of federal campaign contributions, lobbying data, and the effect of money in politics on elections and public policy.
  • USA.gov-- Official government web portal to information, programs and services.
  • Data.gov-- Hosted by the U.S. General Services Administration, provides data from federal government agencies, including agriculture, climate, consumer, ecosystems, education, energy, finance, health, local governments, manufacturing, maritime, ocean, public safety and science & research.

citation

Additional Information:

"Evaluating News Sources." Cornell University Library, 9 February 2018, guides.library.cornell.edu/c.php?g=620317&p=4462941.

Zimdars, Melissa. "False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources." Google Docs, docs.google.com/document/d/10eA5-mCZLSS4MQY5QGb5ewC3VAL6pLkT53V_81ZyitM/preview.

 

Fact-Checking: The Facts

Tips for evaluating news sources:

Analyze the content of the site:

  • Are there citations for the content of the article, does the content refer to published research studies?
  • Are there links to verifiable information?
  • Is the author or sponsoring organization identified so you can Google them to learn more about their credentials?
  • Is the story written by a professional journalist or subject expert?
  • Is there an "About Us" page that describes the sponsoring organization?
  • Are other legitimate news sources reporting on this story?
  • If the story is designed to make readers have a strong emotional response, be sure to verify it through other sources to make sure it is not misleading.
  • Does the headline of the story reveal a biased point of view? Does the word choice promote an emotional reaction, like anger or fear?
  • Check the date of the news story to make sure it is current.
  • Is the story meant to advertise or sell a product, rather than provide factual news?

Analyze the appearance of the site:

  • Is the site professionally designed?
  • Is there a lot of advertising on the page?
  • Do images appear to be altered or enhanced?
  • Is there an odd domain name? If the domain ends in "lo" or "com.co" it may be a fake or satire site.
  • Does the domain include wordpress or blogger? Blogs may represent the author's personal opinions.
  • Does the site use ALL CAPS or sensational headlines to grab a reader's attention?
  • Are there obvious spelling and grammatical errors? Are there dead links on the site?

It's a good idea to read multiple news sources to find credible information and to get a variety of viewpoints on a topic.

Videos

"The Miseducation of Dylann Roof." YouTube, The Southern Poverty Law Center, 18 January 2017, youtu.be/qB6A45tA6mE.

The Southern Poverty Law Center