Fighting Fake News

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What is fake news?

You might have heard this term a lot lately but it goes back to 1200 BC when Rameses the Great spread lies and propaganda portraying the Battle of Kadesh as a stunning victory for the Egyptians; he depicted scenes of him smiting his foes during the battle on the walls of nearly all his temples. The treaty between the Egyptians and the Hittites, however, reveals that the battle was actually a stalemate.

Fake news is journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes. It is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.

Claire Wardle of First Draft News identifies seven types of fake news:

  1. satire or parody (no intention to cause harm but has potential to fool)
  2. false connection (when headlines, visuals of captions don’t support the content)
  3. misleading content (misleading use of information to frame an issue or an individual)
  4. false content (when genuine content is shared with false contextual information)
  5. imposter content (when genuine sources are impersonated” with false, made-up sources)
  6. manipulated content (when genuine information or imagery is manipulated to deceive, as with a doctored photo)
  7. fabricated content (new content is 100% false, designed to deceive and do harm)

So how can you tell if the information you are reading is real news or fake news?

Check your sources

Facebook is not the most reliable source for information. Though people may disagree on which news media outlets are the most reliable there are non-biased ways to check facts. Consider visiting these sites to check the fundamental facts of a story:

www.factcheck.org
www.politifact.com

Some news sites already have a reputation for fake news. Familiarize yourself with these and avoid them: Snope’s Fake News Sites

Read beyond

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Take headlines with a grain of salt. They are often exaggerated or sensational in order to draw readers in. If you click, the website gets a small payout from all the advertisers that have ads on that page. This is why you will see articles split into many pages (more pages = more ads = more money). It is in the website’s best interest to draw readers in with over-the-top headlines, and in your best interest to see if the article has the meat to support its flashy title.

Check the author

Do a search for the author’s name. Have they written other articles? Do they write for reputable sources?

If you can’t find much about the author – or worse if the article has no author – question it’s legitimacy.

Check your biases

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Many of us lean right or left and it is natural to prefer news sources that support our beliefs. However this leads to confirmation bias, thetendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors. An example can help explain how this happens:

“Persons believing in extrasensory perception (ESP) will keep close track of instances when they were ‘thinking about Mom, and then the phone rang and it was her!’ Yet they ignore the far more numerous times when (a) they were thinking about Mom and she didn’t call and (b) they weren’t thinking about Mom and she did call. They also fail to recognize that if they talk to Mom about every two weeks, their frequency of “thinking about Mom” will increase near the end of the two-week-interval, thereby increasing the frequency of a ‘hit.'”
(Goodwin, 2010)

A good non-biased source to check is www.politifact.com.

Ask the experts

We are always happy to help you research and fact check any piece of information you’re uncertain about. Call, email, or ask the reference desk librarians!

Further reading

This is how Facebook’s fake-news writers make money http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/11/18/this-is-how-the-internets-fake-news-writers-make-money/?utm_term=.b930380d8b74 Abby Ohlheiser, November 18, 2016

The Real History of Fake News http://www.cjr.org/special_report/fake_news_history.php, Columbia Journalism Review. Article by David Uberti.

Prior Exposure Increased Perceived Accuracy of Fake News by Gordon Pennycock, Tyrone D. Cannon, and David G. Rand http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2958246

Fake news and the spread of misinformation http://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/internet/fake-news-conspiracy-theories-journalism-research

Evaluating Information: the Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning , Stanford…. http://docs.com/brian-grenier/4791/evaluating-information-the-cornerstoAmyne-of-civic

Verification Handbook http://verificationhandbook.com/

Americans’ Attitudes About the News Media Deeply Divided along Partisan Lines by Michael Barthel and Amy Mitchell, Pew Research Center, http://www.journalism.org/2017/05/10/americans-attitudes-about-the-news-media-deeply-divided-along-partisan-lines/

Truth, Truthiness, Triangulation: A News Literacy Toolkit for a “Post-truth” World by Joyce Valenza, http://www.journalism.org/2017/05/10/americans-attitudes-about-the-news-media-deeply-divided-along-partisan-lines/

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