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Fake News & Misinformation: Spotting Fake News

Learn how to distinguish between real and fake news, recognize media bias, and more.

How to Spot Fake News Infographic

How to Spot Fake News

How to Spot Fake News

Warning Signs

  • Odd URLs. Some fake news sites copy the layout of a legitimate news outlet. Check the URL. If it ends in something like .com.co, or if it ends in "lo," it is probably not a real news outlet. (e.g. Newslo or abcnews.com.co)
  • Bad Layout. If a website does not look professionally designed, it is likely an amateur creation and not a legitimate news organization. Be wary of exceptions, however: It has become very easy to create a professional-looking website, and some local news sources are not necessarily able to afford cutting-edge websites.
  • Blogs. Some reputable news sites employ bloggers whose entries may not undergo the same editing process as the site's general news stories. These blogs may still be more reputable than other blogs, which can be created by anybody with an internet connection. Research the writer to find out if they are a credible source.
  • Bombastic Writing. Does the writing style use a lot of exclamation points (!!!) or frequently put things in ALL CAPS? Does it imply that an entire group of people (political, cultural, racial, etc.) is completely responsible for a problem (or worse, all the world's problems)? Does it suggest that the end is nigh? This is probably a sign that the source is not professional or unbiased. It is most likely trying to sell you a point of view.
  • Sole Source. If this is the only site reporting on this story, that might be a red flag. While many news sources copy information from other sources, reputable news organizations will still fact check before repeating the news.

What To Do About It

If a source is determined to pass itself off as real and unbiased, it's not going to declare itself fake on its About page. It might even believe that it is unbiased, which can be more difficult to detect. To discover the truth for yourself, you will need to research laterally - this means searching for information about the source outside of the source itself. Try one of the fact-checking resources listed on the Websites tab of this Guide, or use Google to find out what others are saying about the source. To do this, use Google's Boolean NOT function, which is a minus sign (-). You can use this to eliminate the resource's own website from the list of search results: [“American College of Pediatricians” -site:acpeds.org]

Note how the results change. This is why only looking at the first Google result or two can be dangerous:

Google ResultsGoogle Results Filtered

Filter Bubbles

We often find ourselves in a political or ideological echo chamber - in other words, we filter out information that we don't agree with and focus on the things we do. Social media allows us to narrow this echo chamber even further. We can follow people, pages, or groups that only provide a certain type of information, and therefore miss out on the bigger picture or alternative perspectives. By only visiting certain types of links, computer algorithms help us filter out the things we don't want to see (other perspectives) and we end up creating a filter bubble. This is particularly common with political news. To see this in action, view some of the links below.

Fake News Games

Articles on Spotting Fake News

Evaluating Resources

For more information on identifying legitimate resources, check out our Evaluating Resources Guide.

News about Fake News

Real News

Looking for legitimate news sources? Check out our library databases!

While these databases do filter out most questionable websites, they do include popular news sources and opinion pieces. Always think critically and filter by date to get current information.