There Are Several Ways You Can Spot Internet Fakery
You've seen it. It seems like every other post on social media is some salacious story about something or other, and people get all up in arms about it. Unfortunately... a lot of the time, those "news" stories aren't real. So how DO you figure out if an article or website you see on the internet is telling you the truth? I guess we could be more informed as a nation, but who has time for that? I've got six years of Sorted Food* videos to get through.
So what are some simple, easy ways to tell if you're reading fake news?
1. Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo. These sites take pieces of accurate information and then package that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy). Same thing as well for websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources. Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.
2. Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias, sure - but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
3. You can't easily tell who wrote it. Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story isn't up to snuff. Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).
4. Do some research. Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source. Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources. If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.
It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Sources such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News hop back and forth a bit between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring you to verify and contextualize information with other sources. For more tips on analyzing the credibility and reliability of sources, please check out School Library Journal (they also provide an extensive list of media literacy resources) and the Digital Resource Center.
So next time your Aunt Sandy puts up another article about how we're all gonna die because Bill Gates is really the Easter Bunny, maybe you'll know better.
*Totally hilarious and adorable cooking show on YouTube. If you have a second you should check it out.