Skip to main content

Fake News/Truthful News: Home

Fake News/Truthful News

The ability to tell accurate news from fake news is an important skill that you'll use for the rest of your life.  This LibGuide offers insight into how to tell fact from fiction online, plus a chance to exercise your newfound media literacy skills through games and interactive exercises.

The Real Scoop on Fact Checking

Background Information

Fake news and the spread of misinformation

From the Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School, links to peer-reviewed articles.

NiemanReports: Election '16: Lessons for Journalism

From the Nieman Foundation at Harvard; several articles on fake news and news literacy

Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning

Stanford University study on high school and college students (lack of) news literacy

Lies, Damn Lies and Viral Content: How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation

Report from Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University

Fake News in the News

News Outlet Code of Ethics and Standards

One of the ways in which a news source demonstrates its authenticity and responsibility to its readers is through a publicly accessible code of ethics or standards.  A sample of various codes, mission statements and ethics handbooks are listed below.

Fact Checking Exercises

The Exercise: Your job is to fact-check the content, evaluate the author's background in the subject he/she writes about, and determine the journalistic standards, values, ethics, or guidelines used by the source. Can you find a standard of commitment to journalistic integrity in these news sources?

Credit: Links to articles created by Kelee Pacion, Mann Library, Cornell University.

Search Engine Bias

Social Media/Search Engine Bias

Social media and web search engine algorithms are deliberately opaque. Algorithms often reinforce our existing biases. Unlike media stories, how these online tools distribute fake news is not open to scrutiny. In this opinion article from the New York Times, "How to Monitor Fake News," Tom Wheeler suggests a way to open up social media algorithms to public scrutiny without compromising individual privacy.

How to Tell the Difference

What Kinds of Fake News Exist?

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.

ESCAPE Junk News (from Newseum)

Media Literacy Resources

How to Spot Fake News

Identify Your Biases

  • Bias is a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others, which often results in treating some people unfairly. 
  • Explicit bias refers to attitudes and beliefs (positive or negative) that we consciously or deliberately hold and express about a person or group. Explicit and implicit biases can sometimes contradict each other. 
  • Implicit bias includes attitudes and beliefs (positive or negative) about other people, ideas, issues, or institutions that occur outside of our conscious awareness and control, which affect our opinions and behavior. Everyone has implicit biases—even people who try to remain objective (e.g., judges and journalists)—that they have developed over a lifetime. However, people can work to combat and change these biases.
  • Confirmation bias, or the selective collection of evidence, is our subconscious tendency to seek and interpret information and other evidence in ways that affirm our existing beliefs, ideas, expectations, and/or hypotheses. Therefore, confirmation bias is both affected by and feeds our implicit biases. It can be most entrenched around beliefs and ideas that we are strongly attached to or that provoke a strong emotional response.

Credit: Facing History and Ourselves. Lesson 3: "Confirmation and Other Biases." 

Watch: Defining Confirmation Bias

Read: How to Escape Your Political Bubble for a Clearer View

Your Library Media Specialist

Fact Checking Links

What's Wrong with Fake News?

Why should you care about whether or not your news is real or fake? Indiana University Library offers the following summary:

  1. 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.  You have every right to be insulted when you read fake news, because you are in essence being treated like an idiot.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.  Fake news will not help you make money or make the world a better place, but real news can.

Quick and Simple Debunking Exercise (Indiana University)

Compare these two links.  Which one do you think is true?  Why or why not?
1 - Eat This Not That: Shocking Facts About Farmed Salmon
2 - Washington State Department of Health: Farmed vs. Wild Salmon

Media Literacy Games

Known Parodic and Misleading Sites

Types of Misleading News

Definitions used by Melissa Zimdar's Open Sources project that classifies websites for credibility.

Fake News: Sources that entirely fabricate information, disseminate deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports

Satire: Sources that use humor, irony, exaggeration, ridicule, and false information to comment on current events.

Extreme Bias: Sources that come from a particular point of view and may rely on propaganda, decontextualized information, and opinions distorted as facts.

Conspiracy Theory: Sources that are well-known promoters of kooky conspiracy theories.

Rumor Mills: Sources that traffic in rumors, gossip, innuendo, and unverified claims.

State-sponsored News: Sources in repressive states operating under government sanction. Propaganda.

Junk Science: Sources that promote pseudoscience, metaphysics, naturalistic fallacies, and other scientifically dubious claims.

Hate News: Sources that actively promote racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.

Clickbait: Sources that provide generally credible content, but use exaggerated, misleading, or questionable headlines, social media descriptions, and/or images.

Proceed With Caution: Sources that may be reliable but whose contents require further verification.

Political: Sources that provide generally verifiable information in support of certain points of view or political orientations.

Credible: Sources that circulate news and information in a manner consistent with traditional and ethical practices in journalism (Remember: even credible sources sometimes rely on clickbait-style headlines or occasionally make mistakes. No news organization is perfect, which is why a healthy news diet consists of multiple sources of information).

Searchlights and Sunglasses: Journalism in the Digital Age

Teacher Resources: Media Literacy, Gov't.