This guide is introduce how fake news has evolved, how it spreads, and how to recognize, avoid, and refute it as much as possible. Examples of fake news sites bearing the hallmarks listed below may be found in this CBS News gallery. The term "fake news" is used to mean disseminated information or material that is one or more of following:
Watch out for misapplications of the phrase "fake news" applied to settings to discredit news sources or information that is actually true. "Fake news" was used by Donald Trump frequently before and during his presidency to attempt to discount news outlets, press, or information he didn't like, but was real, legitimate, and not "fake" news. He used the phrase "fake news" 979 times on Twitter before his account was suspended in January 2021.
Alternative terms you may hear in relation to inaccurate information sharing:
In any conversation about evaluating information, it's important to recognize that we are all susceptible to believing false information. This is not the problem of any one class or section of society. While education plays a major role in determining an individual's ability to analyze information, people of all education background are made vulnerable to fake news by their own biases. Confirmation bias refers to the human tendency to seek out information that supports one's existing beliefs, and to reject, ignore, downplay, or reinterpret information that contradicts them (Heshmat, 2015). Because of this phenomenon, it often takes more effort to refute fake news that matches your beliefs.
"How to Spot Fake News," a brief article from FactCheck.org by Eugene Kiely and Lori Robertson, provides some good tips on spotting fake news. Tips from the article include:
Fact checking information is something anyone can do. It does take time, but fact-checking before you share may save you and others a lot of headache later if the fact seems unclear or questionable. While there are many fact-checking strategies you can use, one of our favorites comes from Michael Caufield's Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers. He calls them:
Here's how Caufield describes what those moves and a habit look like:
The habit is to check your emotions while checking the facts. If you've ever felt charged up about a specific issue or experience a strong emotional reaction when you read a headline, congratulations, you're a human! We all have biases and worldviews we bring with us to reviewing and evaluating information. Being conscious of those emotions is helpful when fact-checking because it can help us stay focus on what we're really looking for: the facts.
Read the book for more detail and examples on applying these strategies.
Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers by Michael A. Caufield.