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Evaluating News: Fake News & Beyond

Evaluating News: Fake News & Beyond


Is It Fake?

On Facebook, Google, and in other corners of the online world, false stories are being posted, shared, and believed. Everyone should be concerned over the spread of this "fake news" and all types of misinformation.  Given our modern-day information overload, each of us must know how to recognize trustworthy news sources while critically evaluating the many forms of information that we see on a daily basis.

Consider these things when reading stories on the web (social media, Google results, news websites etc.):

  1. Is the headline in ALL CAPS and do the pics look altered? If yes, it is probably fake.
  2. Does the headline seem designed to cause anger?
  3. Read past the headline - is there anything of substance?
  4. Which news outlet published it and/or who is the author?
  5. For websites, what is the domain? Fake websites often add “.co” (example:
  6. What quotes from experts, links or other sources does the story use as evidence for its claims?
  7. What is the publish date and time?
  8. Beware of confirmation bias and other forms of cognitive bias.
  9. When in doubt, Do Not Share.

Fake News

Fake news is not a new phenomenon, but the 2016 elections have brought it to the forefront of our attention. The term "fake news" has become a catch-all for all different kinds of news that promote false information, intentionally mislead readers, manipulate our emotions, and provide affirmation to our existing viewpoints and biases.

To complicate things further, it's also becoming more and more common for many people to label news that disagrees with their own viewpoints as fake, without further investigating or verifying the information being presented. So, sometimes you might hear that a news article is fake or that a news source is fake, even when it's pretty reliable. When in doubt, fact check for yourself and/or ask an expert.

Here are some different types of false, misleading, satirical, or otherwise questionable "news":

  • Fake News or Hoax News: Stories that promote false information. While they may be loosely influenced by facts, these stories can't be verified. These stories often rely on language designed to get an emotional response (like outrage) from readers.
  • Clickbait: Outrageous headlines and stories designed to get readers to click open links to a particular webpage. These often try to manipulate emotions or elicit surprise. You've seen a lot of this already - it often involves politics or celebrities.
  • Hyper-partisan or Heavily Biased News: Stories that present facts, often carefully selected, through a biased perspective. There are different levels of bias, but credible reporters and news sites attempt to present facts with objectivity.
  • News Parody/Satire: Stories that parody current events and reporting. While they often use false headlines, they are created to poke fun at current events or people, not to convince readers that the information is true.


For more on different types of fake and unreliable news, take a look at this page from Media Matters: Understanding the Fake News Universe.

This guide was adapted from Washington State University Library's Evaluating News: Fake News and Beyond by Erica Nicol.