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News & Current Events: Fake News

A guide for finding news and current events using the library's resources.

Fake News

We frequently hear the phrase fake news, but what is it exactly?  According to the Hutchinson Encyclopedia, it is  "deliberate misinformation or a hoax spread via the print, broadcast, or social media, with the intent to mislead readers for financial or political gain".   

Fake News may take many different forms, but the essential element is always that it is partially or completely false. It may be urban legend, rumor, badly sourced writing, deliberate misinformation, or intended as humor or parody. As an information consumer, it is your responsibility to evaluate news sources for credibility, authority, and purpose, both for your own information needs and to prevent you from accidently sharing fake news to others. 

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish fake news, so this guide is meant to help learn how to recognize and avoid disinformation.

Is It a Fact?

Use the F.A.C.T. method to help you decide whether or not you should use the resources you find.


Check It Like a Pro

Don't know who to trust?  Use a search engine, databases, and lots of tabs to fact check your resource:

Open a search engine like Google.
#2: Type or copy/paste your author, organization, quote, or claim.

#3: Open new tabs for results that provide new or additional information:
~ Wikipedia summaries
~ News articles
~ Fact checking sites like Politifact, Snopes, or FactCheck

#4: Quickly skim several results:
~ Professional fact checkers read quickly and focus on key sections of webpages
~ Look for inconsistencies or validations

#5: Track back to any original or earlier findings:
~ Fake news often re-uses images
~ Variations of similar content may reveal fabricated content 

#6: Become a skeptic:
~ If a claim seems too good to be true, it probably is--keep searching

Computer screen displaying the word fake.

"Fake news" is often disseminated online, and can be one or more of the following:

  • Blatantly, intentionally false
  • Hyperpartisan (displaying extreme political bias)
  • Lacking credible attribution or supporting evidence
  • Old news presented as brand new
  • Satirical or absurd (The Onion is an example) 

Spotting Fake News

Source: The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

Evaluating Websites

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Fact Checking Websites

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