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General NewsBe a fact checker!

March 1, 2017

Since the presidential election, fake news has become a hot topic. Fake news acts like a rumor that spreads rapidly. Fake news stories are lies or part lies and part truth. On the internet fake news often looks authentic, but it is harmful when it is shared millions of times because many people start to believe the untruths.

Perhaps you have seen the post, “Facebook is going to make all your posts public.” This fake news story looks believable. In fact, it was shared by at least 2.2 million times, according to Snopes.com. How could so many people be fooled?

A recent Stanford University study concluded that people often believe a story simply because they “saw it online” or “heard it on the news.” Sam Wineburg, the lead author of the study said that “a solution [to identify fake news] is for all readers to read like fact checkers.”

Fact checkers do two important things. They ask questions about source and content and search for evidence of support.

First of all, is the source, domain or URL of a story credible? Fake news websites often look like trusted news sites but they use slightly different addresses. For example, washingtonpost.com is the website for The Washington Post, a credible newspaper, but washingtonpost.com.co publishes fake news.

Next, are the claims in the story supported by evidence such as quotes and facts from research? Are the original research studies and other source documents available to readers? Are experts being quoted? Are quotes accurately reported?

Fact-checking takes time, so one short cut is to check reliable fact-checking websites like snopes.com or factcheck.org before foolishly hitting the share button.


Published March 2017

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