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Evaluating Sources: Fake News

General Information

Types of Fake News

Hoax

Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Many of these aim to elicit an emotional response.

Satire

Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news

Biased

Information presented to represent a particular viewpoint, logic, or emotion.  Readers must be aware of what their biases are and question whether this information the reason the information seems to be true is because it confirms something the reader already believes to be true.

 

 

AmericanThinker.com

Propoganda

Appeals to emtions rather than logic in a subtle way.

Awareness Act.com

 

Sloppy Incomplete Information

Misused data, data taken out of context, information based on unreliable sources.

 

Example: CNS News

Click Bait

Generally credible content, but these sites use exaggerated, misleading, questionable headlines, or sensational language to generate interest, clickthroughs, and shares, but their content is typically verifiable. These sites generate income for the owners.

 

Example:  Bipartisan Report

Evaluating News

OpenSources Steps for Analyzing Websites:

 

Step 1:  Title/Domain Analysis. If words like “.wordpress” or “blogger” are in the domain that usually signifies it’s a personal blog rather than a news source. If slight variations of well known websites appear, such as “.com.co,” this is usually a sign that the website is fake version of a source. However, remember that foreign reputable news organizations may have these country-specific domains.

 

Step 2: About Us Analysis. I usually google every title/domain name/anyone listed in the “About Us” section to see if anyone has previously reported on the website (snopes, hoax-slayer, politifact, factcheck.org, etc.) or whether it has a wikipedia page or something similar detailing its background. This is useful for identifying and correctly interpreting lesser known and/or new websites that may be on the up-and-up, such as satirical sources or websites that are explicit about their political orientation.

 

Then I look for information about the credentials and backgrounds of affiliated writers (is it a content mill or do they pay their writers?), editors, publishers, and domain owners (who.is etc.). It’s also useful to see if the website has a “Legal” or “Disclaimer” section. Many satirical websites disclose this information in those sections.

 

A total lack of About Us, Contact US, or any other type of identifying information may mean that the website is not a legitimate source of information.

 

Step 3: Source Analysis. Does the website mention/link to a study or source? Look up the source/study. Do you think it’s being accurately reflected and reported? Are officials being cited? Can you confirm their quotes elsewhere? Some media literacy and critical scholars call this triangulation: Verify details, facts, quotes, etc. with multiple sources.

 

Step 4: Writing Style Analysis. Does the website follow AP Style Guide or another style guide? Typically, lack of style guide may indicate an overall lack of editing or fact-checking process. Does it frequently use ALL CAPS in headlines and/or body text? Does the headline or body of the text use words like WOW!, SLAUGHTER!, DESTROY!? This stylistic practice and these types of hyperbolic word choices are often used to create emotional responses with readers that is avoided in more traditional styles of journalism.

 

Step 5:  Aesthetic Analysis. Like the style-guide, many fake and questionable news sites utilize very bad design. Usually this means screens are cluttered with text and heavy-handed photoshopping or born digital images.

 

Step 6: Social Media Analysis.  Look up the website on Facebook. Do the headlines and posts rely on sensational or provocative language-- aka clickbait-- in order to attract attention and encourage likes, clickthroughs, and shares? Do the headlines and social media descriptions match or accurately reflect the content of the linked article? (this step isn’t particularly good at helping us find fake news, but it can help us identify other misleading news sources)

 

By considering all of these areas of information we can determine which category or categories a

website may occupy, although all categorizations are by necessity open to discussion and revision.  

 

  • by Prof. Melissa Zimdar, Merrimack College

List of News Sources and how they are rated

How Easy is it to Create Fake News?

Tracking Changes to News Stories