There’s nothing new about fake news or misdirecting readers with half-truths or outright lies. Ever since people learned they could achieve their ends with misinformation, they’ve been using it. And for many of us, the preeminent fact-checker site Snopes.com is a regular stop on our daily clickfest.
How do you wade through the muck, though, and how do you determine what’s true and what’s false? The website FactCheck.org has some tips to share.
First, read beyond the headline. Headlines are, by nature, created to grab a reader’s attention and make them believe the story being told. Put the headline to one side and look at the remainder of the story. Does it present a coherent argument? Is it well documented? Does it even relate to the headline?
Second, check the source of the information. A good way to do this is to visit the organization’s website and look at their mission statement (tells you what they believe and their bias on the topic) and their contact information (tells you if they even exist).
Third, check out the author. Is it a real person? Are they affiliated with any credible associations or institutions? Have they published other work?
Fourth, look at the date. Reposting old information, unless it’s obviously supportive of the topic, may mean it’s no longer relevant. Or, it may mean the writer is trying to mislead you with out-of-date information.
Fifth, examine supporting sources. If they’re online sources, click on the links to determine if the information given supports the story.
Sixth, examine your biases to determine if any of your own beliefs could affect your judgement about the topic.
If you’re looking at breaking news, there are some dead giveaways for misleading content.
- If it’s in ALL CAPS or has obviously photoshopped pictures, steer clear.
- If you see a glut of pop-ups and banner ads, it’s a good sign the story is pure clickbait.
- Look at the domain name! Fake sites often add “.co” to trusted brands to make you think they’re legit.
- If a link lands you on an unknown site, check its “About” page, then, Google it with the word “fake” to see what comes up.
- If a story offers links, follow them to see if they lead to real information or junk. If there are no links, quotes, or references? Another telltale sign of junk.
- Verify an unlikely story by looking to see if a reputable outlet is reporting the same thing.
- Photos may be misidentified and misdated. Use a reverse image search engine like TinEye or SmallSEOTools to see where an image really comes from.
- Perform a gut check. If a story makes you angry, it’s probably meant to, and that’s not an unbiased piece.
- Finally, if you’re not sure the story’s true, never share it!
As the reader, it’s up to you to determine if what you’re reading is true or misleading. By following the above tips, you should be able to understand the purpose of the article, the credibility of the author and publisher, and help stop the spread of misinformation before it goes viral and is hard to retract.
  na. (Jul 25, 2022). College of Staten Island Library. Retrieved from https://library.csi.cuny.edu/c.php?g=619342&p=4376665.