The Fake News Problem
Why should I care about fake news?
- You deserve the truth. You are smart enough to make up your own mind - as long as you have the real facts in front of you.
- Fake news destroys your credibility. If your arguments are built on bad information, it will be much more difficult for people to believe you in the future.
- Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people. Purveyors of fake and misleading medical advice like Mercola.com and NaturalNews.com help perpetuate myths like HIV and AIDS aren't related, or that vaccines cause autism. These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.
- Real news can benefit you. If you want to buy stock in a company, you want to read accurate articles about that company so you can invest wisely. If you are planning on voting in an election, you want to read as much good information on a candidate so you can vote for the person who best represents your ideas and beliefs.
How Do You Know?
Impact of Fake News
Breaking Fake News
How To Spot Fake News (video)
How To Tell Fake News From Real News
In November 2016, Stanford University researchers made an alarming discovery: across the US, many students can’t tell the difference between a reported news article, a persuasive opinion piece, and a corporate ad. This lack of media literacy makes young people vulnerable to getting duped by “fake news” — which can have real consequences.
Want to strengthen your own ability to tell real news from fake news?
Start by asking these five questions of any news item:
Who wrote it?
What claims does it make?
When was it published?
Where was it published?
How does it make you feel?
How to Avoid Fake News
Beware of Online "Filter Bubbles"
Types of Fake News
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.
Please feel free to share this guide with others. If you are a librarian or teacher, you are welcome to use this guide and its contents for your own purposes. Special thanks to Librarian K.T. Lowe at Indiana University-East.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.