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Fake News!: Spotting Fake News

Tips for Spotting Fake News

  • Check the URL.
    • URLs can tell you a lot about the source. For example a .gov URL means that the source is from the US government, .edu means the source is from an educational institution.
    • Websites attempting to spread fake news will sometimes create a URL that mimics a well-known news source, changing the URL slightly so that users might not notice they aren't actually affiliated with that well-known news source. For an example, take a look at one of the images on the Home page of this guide. It is a Fake News website attempting to mimic ABC News.
  • Watch out for provoking headlines.
    • One of the best ways to make you click on a story and share it with others is by making you angry or upset. Headlines will use strong language or making provoking claims.
    • Clickbait is often identified by the headline, which will start a story that requires you to click on the article for the satisfaction of knowing the end of the story. ("X happened, and you won't believe what happens next!").
  • Check other sources.
    • If your source is the only place reporting on that story, it may not be true.
  • Check their sources.
    • Do they provide you with their sources? If they don't provide their sources, or you can't access their sources (the links don't work or just circle back to other articles from the same source), it may not be true.
  • Read their About Us page.
    • Find the source's About Us page. Who are they and what is their mission? For example, one new source examined indicated in their About Us page that they make no promises about the accuracy of their stories.
  • Check the date
    • It is very common for Fake News sources to recycle old stories when the current climate makes those stories likely to be popular. For example, during the holiday season is it very common for a new story to circulate about a school banning mention of Christmas. The name of the school is changed each year, and the school often doesn't even exist. But because the topic is timely, it is sure to be shared.
  • Ask for help!
    • If you aren't sure, ask a librarian. It's our job!