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Fake News

Fact-Checking: The Facts

#1: Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate

  • Use criteria to evaluate a source. In Libraries, we often use the CRAAP Test* to evaluate websites, and these criteria are useful for evaluating news as well. These criteria are:
    • Currency: is the information current? Many times on Facebook, you will click on a story and notice that the date was from a few months or years ago, but your "friends" are acting outraged as if it is happening in the moment.
    • Relevance: is the information important to your research needs? This criterion perhaps applies most if you are out seeking information, rather than just stumbling across it. Does the information relate to your question and at the appropriate-level (elementary/advanced)? Have you looked at a variety of sources before selecting this one?
    • Authority: who is the author/publisher/sponsor of the news? Do they have authority on the subject? Do they have an agenda? 
    • Accuracy: Is the information supported by evidence? Does the author cite credible sources? Is the information verifiable in other places?
    • Purpose: What is the purpose of this news? To outrage? To call to action? To inform? To sell? This can give you clues about bias.

So, finally, is your news source CRAAP?  More on Fact-Checking:

#2: Google It! 

If you found out something via social media, you should take 5 seconds and just Google it! More often than not, a Google search will show:

  • If other reputable news sites are reporting on the same thing
  • If a fact-check website has already debunked the claim
  • If only biased news organizations are reporting the claim -- in this case, it may require more digging.

I would say that most of the time, 5 seconds is all you need before you hit the angry, the like, the love, or - WORSE! - the share button!

#3: Get News from News Sources

One of the easiest ways to avoid the trap of fake news to begin with may seem obvious:

Go directly to credible news websites for your news.

Relying on Facebook to see what is "trending" or what is being shared across your newsfeed means you have to verify every single meme or news article you come across. Why not rely on news apps on your phone that go to news websites for that?

**Keep in mind that even some reputable news sites have biases and may tell the facts in different ways.**

#4: Distinguish Opinion from Fact

Even news websites and programs have spaces or shows dedicated to people's opinions of news stories. In newspapers, these sections may be called:

  • Editorials
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Op-Eds
  • Opinion vs. Fact on TV News ChannelsOpinion

Opinion shows many times now dominate cable news sources. You may agree with the opinions presented, or they may contextualize the facts for you in a way that makes sense. However, realize they are presenting the facts in a way that meets their agenda and think for yourself: How might "the other side" present these same facts?

Examples of opinion shows on news channels are:

  • The O'Reilly Factor
  • Hardball with Chris Matthews
  • Fox & Friends
  • The Rachel Maddow Show
  • Anderson Cooper 360

#5: Watch out for red flags!

  • Does the link end with .co instead of .com?
  • Are there small disclaimers, something that says "satire"?
  • When you click on a story in social media, is it a story that is outdated? Why is it being circulated now?
  • Is it posted by so-and-so? ...We all have that one friend on social media.