By VOA News – voanews.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53671547
“There are no facts, only interpretations.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
The term “fake news” has been bandied about fairly liberally these days. In the glut that makes up our daily intake of information, it is often hard to separate what makes up good, verifiable information from bad, spurious information. Too many bad actors purposefully blur the lines between the two and attempt to fool the public and are all-too successful at pulling the wool over people’s eyes.
According to a recent study from Stanford University, students are all-too ready to accept so-called fake news. The study describes their ability to assess information sources as “dismaying,” “bleak,” and “[a] threat to democracy.”1 It is also believed that fake news played a role in our recent elections.2 Even weather forecasts are susceptible to the siren call of fake news and hype.3
But work is being done to stop its insidious spread.
In classrooms like this4, students are being taught the critical thinking skills necessary to discern truth from fiction. Google has disrupted its ability to “cash in” on ignorance.5 Groups such as JSTOR6 and Amy Pohler’s Smart Girls7 have stepped forward with ways to combat fake news with intelligence and forethought.
Finally, your library has developed some steps that you can take to help you determine what is real and what is fake in your daily news diet.
- Look at the URL of the website. If it has .com.co, then it is probably a fake news site.
- Look at who wrote the story. Is there an author? Has the author written other stories? Is the story from a governmental or educational institution? Is it from a reputable newswire or service? If not, it is probably fake.
- Is the story designed to make you angry? Does the author urge you to dox8 someone? If so, the story is probably fake.
- Is there an “About Us” page? Is it believable? Can you verify that information with a Google search? If not, then it is probably fake.
- Does the story match the headline? Does the photo match the story? If not, then it is probably fake.
- Can you find the same story in other sources? Can you find the same quotes in other sources? If not, then it is probably fake.
- Look out for satire sites! They often look very realistic, but are purposefully fake.
- The Onion
- Landover Baptist Church
- Weekly World News
- National Report
- The Daily Currant
Determining what is fake news takes time and effort. Purveyors of fake news are counting on people not to take that time to propagate their lies. Even a little bit of effort often goes a long way toward casting dispersion on such stories and aiding in your healthy skepticism. Take anything that comes from the internet with a grain of salt and verify what is important. Finally, feel free to ask your campus librarian for any help in verifying sources of information.
–Contributed by Shedrick Pittman-Hassett, Associate Dean of Libraries, Gainesville Campus (with thanks to Sabrina McKethan, Librarian, Corinth Campus)
1“Students Have ‘Dismaying’ Inability to Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds.” NPR.org, 23 Nov. 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/23/503129818/study-finds-students-have-dismaying-inability-to-tell-fake-news-from-real.
2 Timberg, Craig. “Russian Propaganda Effort Helped Spread ‘Fake News’ During Election, Experts Say.” The Washington Post, 24 Nov. 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html?utm_term=.70c2e0eb9ef3.
3 Shepherd, Marshall. “Some Viral Weather Forecasts are Fake News—Two Reasons They Must Be Stopped Now.” Forbes. 3 Jan. 2017, http://www.forbes.com/sites/marshallshepherd/2017/01/03/some-viral-weather-forecasts-are-fake-news-2-reasons-they-must-be-stopped-now/#79b0038e5197.
4”The Classroom Where Fake News Fails.” All Things Considered, NPR, 22 Dec. 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/12/22/505432340/the-classroom-where-fake-news-fails.
5Nicas, Jack. “Google to Bar Fake-News Websites from Using Its Ad-Selling Software.” The Wall Street Journal, 14 Nov. 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/google-to-bar-fake-news-websites-from-using-its-ad-selling-software-1479164646.
6Samuel, Alexandra. “To Fix Fake News, Look to Yellow Journalism.” JSTOR, 29 Nov. 2016, http://daily.jstor.org/to-fix-fake-news-look-to-yellow-journalism/.
7”Smart Girls Understand: How to Be a Savvy News Consumer.” Amy Pohler’s Smart Girls, 22 Nov. 2016, https://amysmartgirls.com/smart-girls-understand-how-to-be-a-savvy-news-consumer-e34e3c1e2d6a#.nu0b21818.
8Dox = Search for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the internet, typically with malicious intent.