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Misinformation, Disinformation, and Polarization

A guide to fake news, bad journalism and social media reaction

Fake News and Other Nightmares - Made with the Help of Writing Studio Peer Tutors!

Is it Fake News or Sloppy Journalism?

Fake news is a term that is being tossed around a lot lately, starting with the political left and, now used on nearly a daily basis by the President of the United States. While some news stories and viral threads are complete fabrications, such as the now infamous pizzagate conspiracy theory or the television ads from Fred Trump's mayoral bid, other news stories that have been labeled "fake" are better described as examples of sloppy or ethically questionable journalism. Yet others, are are simply not fake at all. Not even very fake.

So how do you tell the difference? Here are some quick tips:  

  • Examine the source where the information originated as best you can.

    • Is the domain and URL suspicious? There are sites like abcnews.com.co  (no longer live). which purposefully pretend to be major news media outlets.

    • Is there an "About Us" section? If not, be skeptical. If so, please read it. Some sites, like Historical Paroxsym openly admit that they are creators fake content or that they are news satire sites.

  • Read the whole articleDon't just read the headline or the associated tweet.

    • Check for quotes in the article and check who is quoted. The more controversial a topic the more variety of quoted sources from experts, the better.  

    • Click Bait. These days the media are competing furiously for your attention. Headlines or social media statements are written for maximum impact and engagement and often don't represent the substance of the article. Headlines on news websites are even changed for greater impact when a reader shares the story. Look before you share to see if the "new" headline is misleading. 

  • Verify the story in multiple sources of diverse readership. In other words, if you see the story posted in a blog, see what major news sources are reporting about it, if any. If you see the story first in a left-leaning news source, find out what centrist and right leaning media outlets are reporting.  
    • Reverse search any image associated with a story, especially when posted on social media. Just as with headlines, media outlets and fake news creators alike know that strong imagery will make you click and share. You can use:  TineEye Reverse Search or in Google Images, paste the image URL and click on the camera icon. 
    • Fact check claims made on social media and in the news. We recommend FactCheck.org as a non-profit, non-partisan tool from The Anneberg Pubic Policy Center. 

"Or Real? How To Self-Check The News and Get the Facts" 5 Dec. 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/12/05/503581220/fake-or-real-how-to-self-check-the-news-and-get-the-facts. Accessed 12 Mar. 2017.

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