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Fake News: Top Tips

Your guide to critically and confidently navigating today's information landscape.

Be a Confident Information Navigator

This guide has a lot of great information and tips, but if you are here to get straight to the point, go no further!

It is important to remember that checking sources for credibility, authority, trustworthiness (etc.) is a process. There isn't a perfect solution to figure out whether or not a source is something you want to use. The tips in this guide are meant to help you start thinking critically and asking smart questions about the sources you encounter on the web.

Mike Caufield suggests three steps to take when you aren't sure whether information is trustworthy or not:

  1. Check for previous fact-checking work
  2. Go upstream to the source
  3. Read laterally

So what does that actually look like...let's break it down!

Check for Previous Fact Checking Work

If you've ever tried to fact check an article yourself, you know that it can be a LOT of work. The good thing is is that there are places online that are solely devoted to fact checking!

Go Upstream for the Source

You can always fact check an article yourself by following the sources the article cites. Follow the hyperlinks in the article to see where they lead. Here are some tips for following links:

  • Do they link to other sites, research articles, newspaper stories, etc.? A lot of times authors will fill their article's with hyperlinks to make it look like they are citing, when in fact, all the links lead back to a different article the same site published!
  • Ideally, when you are follow links you want to end up at the original source of the claim. Depending on the claim that could be something like the original newspaper article or a scholarly research article.

Read Laterally

In other words, read other articles about this same topic and read about the site that published the information.

  • Do other sources have the same information or is there conflicting information? It's always better to look at how multiple sources report an event and/or information.
  • Look up the site itself. Is it a known fake news site? Are other sources critical of the sites publishing practices?

Questions to Ask

  • Who wrote the article? Is there an author? What are their credentials?
  • When was it written? Is the information in it current?
  • Where does the information come from? Does the author cite other sources? If there are hyperlinks, where do they take you?
  • What does it look like? Are there a lot of ads? Does it look like it was designed to be attention grabbing and easily shareable?