by Sierra Campagna, Orinda Library Manager
Don't be Fooled - How to Identify Fake News
With so much information available online it is often difficult to determine what is fact and what is fiction. There seems to be a current outbreak of widespread misinformation in the media, often referred to as "fake news." Many people now use social media as a news source and end up with strongly biased, inaccurate, or false information. Also concerning, some media and news sources seem to disregard the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics, "to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough". Reliable news sources use neutral or unbiased reporting, have articles written by journalists with professional degrees, conduct fact checking before publication, and are transparent when errors or mistakes are made.
The library has long been a place for people to find relevant, factual information. Librarians actively work to promote and teach information literacy. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when evaluating the accuracy of a news article or media story:
- When was it published? Is it current?
- What are the author or reporter's credentials? Is there an author listed? Who are they affiliated with?
- Was the information reviewed by editors or subject experts before it was published?
- Are there reliable sources listed to back up the statements?
- What is the author's purpose? Do they want to persuade and influence or inform?
- Are alternative points of view presented?
- Does the author omit facts and data that might disprove the claim?
And it's always a good idea to check more than one source for information, to see if you are hearing the same thing or if you notice significant differences.
Fact Checking Websites
- FactCheck – Independent organization that fact checks the accuracy of what major U.S. politicians say.
- Washington Post Fact Checker – Column started in 2007 that provides analysis of current news, with a focus on statements by political figures. Newsletter digest available.
- Politifact – Fact checking rumors, news, and political campaigns.
- Hoax-Slayer – debunks email scams, internet hoaxes, and provides resources for increasing internet security
- AllSides – See the same news story from multiple sources and perspectives: Left, Right, Center.