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How to Identify Fake News — How Can I Tell if a News Story is Fake?

What Makes a News Story Fake?

  • It can’t be verified: A fake news article may or may not have links in it tracing its sources; if it does, these links may not lead to articles outside of the sites’ domain or may not contain information pertinent to the article’s topic.

  • Fake News appeals to emotion: Fake news plays on your feelings – it makes you angry or happy or scared. This is to ensure you don’t do anything as pesky as fact-checking.

  • Authors usually aren’t experts: Most authors aren’t even journalists, but paid trolls.

  • It can’t be found anywhere else: If you look up the main idea of a fake news article, you might not find any other news outlet (real or not) reporting on the issue.

  • Fake news comes from fake sites: Did your article come from abcnews.com.co? Or mercola.com? Or Realnewsrightnow.com? These and a host of other URLs are fake news sites.

How to Fact-Check Like a Pro

  • Check credentials: Is the author specialized in the field that the article is concerned with? Do they currently work in that field? Check LinkedIn or do a quick Google search to see if the author can speak with authority and accuracy.

  • Check the sources: When an article cites sources, it’s good to check them out. Sometimes, official-sounding associations are a biased think tank, or only represent the fringe view of a large group of people. If you can’t find sources, read as much about the topic as you can to get a feel for what’s already out there and decide for yourself if the article is accurate or not.

  • Look for bias: Does the article lean towards a particular point of view? Does it link to sites, files or images that seem to skew left or right? Biased articles may not be giving you the whole story.

  • Check the Dates: Like eggs and milk, information can have an expiration date. In many cases, use the most up-to-date information you can find.

  • Judge Hard: If what you’re reading seems too good to be true, too weird, or too reactionary, it probably is.