AYAUJ’s Guide to Spotting Fake News:
princessmaro/Getty Images/iStockphoto. Taken from an article by NPR.

AYAUJ’s Guide to Spotting Fake News:

What we know and when.

As a society, the substance behind these five words determines how we address hot-button issues like climate change, social inequality, and gun rights.

As young people, we rely on the pillar of journalism to paint an accurate picture of the present—to provide us with the facts, data, and stories on controversial topics that will allow us to make up our own minds, free from falsity and bias. 

And yet, the news we consume on websites and social media seems to be failing us. 

In the firestorm of polarized political opinions that have marked our past four years as a country, our news sources are no longer as trustworthy as we once thought they were. 

Bias and opinions have crept into reporting, telling us what to think instead of giving us the facts to do so ourselves. 

More severely, “fake news” has emerged as the greatest threat to our democracy; a deliberate attack on our shared values of truth, impartiality, and integrity by individuals or corporations who wish to misguide the public on the issues that matter today. 

 As young people, how do we articulate our demands for change as the validity of our news sources degrade? 

The answer, in our age of “information saturation” and round-the-clock news, is to be aware of what misinformation looks like and find the sources that speak the truth. 

The reality is that only an informed and empowered public can make the changes that need to be made for a better future—and only the media can give us the information we need to do so. 

How we select what we read, watch, and listen to determines our course. 

Let this article be your guide.

Sincerely,

Naran Shettigar, Editor in Chief

Noah Henson and Thomas Goldstein, Journalism Co-Leads

Questions You Should Ask About Your Source:

1. Is the URL sketchy? 

    • Many authors of fake news will mimic the URLs of well-known news sites in an attempt to make their articles seem genuine. For example, “abc.com.co,” a clear rip-off of the genuine ABC News (abcnews.go.com), was a discontinued site that published fake news about Obama, El Chapo, and SCOTUS.
    • See this article from CBS on known fake news URLs. 

 

2. Does the date the article was published not make sense? 

    • Pay close attention to the date on your source. It is common for distributors of fake news to repost past stories in an effort to mislead viewers on current events. 

 

3. Is the website or author on the extreme left or right of the political spectrum?

 

4. Are the website or author unverifiable? 

    • Try doing a web search of the site and author. If you aren’t able to find consistent information about either (for example, the site’s or author’s wikipedia page), it is likely that your article was published or written by an entity that does not exist. 

 

5. Is the data the article uses unverifiable or controversial? 

    • Examine the sources that the hyper links in the article take you to: do they appear genuine? Use steps 1-4 to determine their validity.
    • Try doing a basic web search of the key pieces of research that the article cites. Are there any controversies or criticisms associated with the data? Does this change your view on the validity of the research? 

 

6. Do the visuals appear doctored in any way? 

    • If the article provides photos, videos, or social media posts, examine them thoroughly. Pay close attention to irregularities in the background, reflections, shadows, and colors of the visuals. See this article for more tips on spotting fake images. 

 

7. Does the article use opinionated phrases while describing the facts? 

    • On trustworthy news sites, there is a clear line between news and op-eds: News should inform the public on the facts about important current events, while op-eds should provide an individual’s opinion on those issues. 
    • Take note if your article ‘reports’ the news using polarizing or clearly biased language such as epithets or slurs.

The Verdict:

  • Fake/Unreliable: 
    • If you answered yes to any of the following questions, your article is FAKE or UNRELIABLE and you should find another source: 
      • 1, 3, 4, 5, 6

 

  • Biased: 
    • If you answered yes to any of the following questions, your article is BIASED. 
      • 2, 7

 

  • Valid: 
    • Congratulations! If you answered no to questions 1-7, your article is NOT fake news. Feel free to use this source to inform your opinions, discussions with friends or family, and writing.

1 Last Thing to Keep in Mind:

  • If you ever have any doubts about whether a news article is fake or biased, ask a teacher, librarian. or professional journalist: they can help you confirm or disprove your suspicions.