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Evaluating Resources: Fake News


scanned newspaper story with headline reading 'Space Alien Meets With Newt Gingrich'

An example of "fake news" in print.

What Is Fake News?

Fake news is a type of hoax or deliberate spread of misinformation. For a story to be fake news, it has to be written and published with the intent to mislead.

The categories of fake news:

  • Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites
    • 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
  • Misleading websites
    • These websites circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information
  • Clickbait websites
    • These are websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions
  • Satire/comedy sites
    • The sites offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be mistaken for and shared as actual/literal news


Understand Fake News


What makes a news story fake?

  1. The facts of the story can't be verified.
    The alleged sources cited by the article, if any exist, may come from information reported by the same website or person. Many fake news stories contain embedded links to give the appearance of information sources. However, these links often take you to another fake news story, or a broad part of a legitimate website rather than the specific page with an attributed source. 
  2. The story is not published in other credible news sources.
    In the 24 hour news cycle it's extremely rare to see a significant news story published in a single source. If conducting a Google search for the main ideas of the story does not produce results from other reputable news sources, then it is likely to be fake. 
  3. The author does not have the credentials or the authority to write the story.
    Authors in fake news articles don't have any educational background in what they are reporting, and they are not journalists. As recent investigative journalism proved, many authors are paid trolls. 
  4. The story appeals to your emotions.
    Fake news stories play heavily on readers' emotions with the goal of inspiring anger, fear, or happiness. By appealing to emotions rather than logic they distract from the facts of the story, and make readers more inclined to pass along the story without investigating its authenticity. 


Check the Claim!


How to Fact Check

Check Credentials

Is the author specialized in the field that the article is concerned with? Do they currently work in that field? Check LinkedIn or do a quick Google search to see if the author can speak about he subject with authority and accuracy.

Click on "About Us"

Read the “About Us” section. Does the resource have one? It may be on a tab at the top of the page, or a link at the bottom of the page, but all reputable websites will have some type of About Us section and will provide a  way for you to contact them.

Look for Bias

Does the article seem to lean toward a particular point of view? Does it link to sites, files, or images that seem to skew left or right? Biased articles may not be giving you the whole story.

Check the Dates

Like eggs and milk, information can have an expiration date. In many cases, use the most up-to-date information you can find.

Check out the Source

When an article cites sources, it's good to check them out. Sometimes, official-sounding associations are really biased think tanks or represent only a fringe view of a large group of people. If you can't find sources, read as much about the topic as you can to get a feel for what's already out there and decide for your self if the article is accurate or not.

Use the ACT UP Model

  • Author
  • Currency
  • Truth
  • Unbiased
  • Privilege

Interrogate URLs

We see quite a bit of domain manipulation these days. For instance, what looks like an .edu domain, followed by .co or “lo” is likely a fake or deceptive site.  If you are you seeing a slightly variant version of a well-known URL, do a little investigating.

Who owns the website posting the information?

You can find out at either or at Both of these websites allow you to perform a WHOIS search. Whenever someone registers a website address, they are required to enter their contact information. When you get to your WHOIS search, enter in the domain (the first part of the website URL). This step can be used to collect all the information when you question a source, or the information's purpose.

Suspect the Sensational

When you see something posted that looks sensational, it is even more important to be skeptical. Exaggerated and provocative headlines with excessive use of capital letters or emotional language are serious red flags.


If what you're reading seems too good to be true, or too weird, or too reactionary, it probably is.

Adapted from: