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Fake News Guide: Knowing How to Spot Fake News

This LibGuide will help you learn what fake news is and how to spot it.

What is Fake News?

Fake news should not be confused with satire, bias, junk science or clickbait. Fake news is intentionally false, meaning there is no factual basis for this kind of news. To help you delineate fake news from other types of sources here are some helpful definitions:

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 current events.

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.

Clickbait: Sources that provide generally credible content, but use exaggerated, misleading, or questionable headlines, social media descriptions, and/or images.

Definitions taken from Melissa Zimdar's Open Sources project that classifies websites for credibility.

How to Spot Fake News

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has made this infographic with steps to discover the verifiability of a given news-piece in front of you.How to spot Fake News poster

Fact Check Like a Pro

How to Fact Check news articles

Image adapted from Indiana University East

What Kind of Fake News Exists?

There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.

CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.

CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information

CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions

CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news

No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.)  Some articles fall under more than one category.  Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not.   It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

It's up to you to make sure your sources are reliable. The resources below can help you to determine if a source is good.