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Fake News & Misinformation: How to Spot and Verify

This guide provides tips, fact checking websites, and resources to help you discern whether the news you see, read, and hear about is real or fake.

About Fake News

Fake news has become a heavily politicized term, however the common-sense definition still applies: “any news that contains intentionally misleading information.” When you see a “news” story, you need to dig a lot deeper than the headline or the text of the article to know whether what you are seeing is fact rather than speculation, opinion, or outright fiction.

Relevant quotes: 

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."  - Aldous Huxley

“Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.”-- Jonathan Swift, The Examiner, Nov. 9, 1710.

"Skepticism: the mark and even the pose of the educated mind." - John Dewey

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Share Facts, not Fear

Because this is a new strain of virus and the situation is changing quickly, it is very important to make sure you use trustworthy information. We have provided you with a number of reliable links in this guide. If you see contradictory or alarming information, consider looking it up on these fact-checking resources before sharing it.

Terms Associated with "Fake News"

"Alternative facts" - According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “a fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality," and alternative means “offering or expressing a choice.” Putting these two words together is problematic because of the implication that there can be multiple “objective realities” from which people can choose instead of just one, true reality.

Bias - "A preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment."

Born digital - "Of a document, created and stored in a digital format and not existing in hard copy."

Clickbait - "(On the Internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page."

Confirmation bias - "The tendency to seek and interpret information that confirms existing beliefs."

Echo chamber - "Mainstreaming ideological effect in which a group worldview is reinforced through continual circulation amongst like-minded people."

Filter bubble - "Phenomenon whereby the ideological perspectives of internet users are reinforced as a result of the selective algorithmic tailoring of search engine results to individual users."

Parody - "Consists of mocking a style of literary production through an exaggerated imitation."

Post-truth - "Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

Satire - The use of humor, irony, and exaggeration to ridicule a subject, often a politician.

Source: Definitions from:  https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Students, Fake News, and Information Literacy

Information literacy skills, or their absence, can benefit or harm students throughout their future lives and careers. A 2015 study by the PEW Research Center reported that 64 percent of Americans believe that fake news causes “a great deal of confusion,” and 23 percent have shared fake news online, either purposefully or inadvertently. As part of an ongoing examination of socal media and news, the Pew Research Center continues to analyze the scope and characteristics of social media news consumers across nine social networking sites (sources linked below).

A study by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) labeled American students’ dearth of online media literacy skills “stunning,” “dismaying,” and “bleak.” SHEG tested thousands of middle school, high school, and university students to determine their aptitude at “civic online reasoning—the ability to judge the credibility of information that floods young people’s smartphones, tablets, and computers.” College students fared worse than high schoolers at this task, with 93 percent failing “to see through MinimumWage.com’s language to determine that it was a front group for a D.C. lobbyist,” when a simple Google search would have found numerous articles exposing the bias (Evaluating Information, 2016).

International Fact-Checking Day

International Fact-Checking Day is promoted by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) in partnership with fact-checking organizations around the world. It is observed annually on April 2nd. Fact-checking shouldn't be something only professional fact-checkers do. An accurate information ecosystem requires everyone to do their part.

Related Guides

St. Louis Community College Libraries

Florissant Valley Campus Library
3400 Pershall Rd.
Ferguson, MO 63135-1408
Phone: 314-513-4514

Forest Park Campus Library
5600 Oakland
St. Louis, MO 63110-1316
Phone: 314-644-9210

Meramec Campus Library
11333 Big Bend Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-5720
Phone: 314-984-7797

Wildwood Campus Library
2645 Generations Drive
Wildwood, MO 63040-1168
Phone: 636-422-2000