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Fake News & Misinformation: How to Spot and Verify

Use this guide to help develop your critical thinking skills to become a wise consumer and producer of information. Learn how to make informed judgments.

Using this guide

Can you spot fake news?

This guide provides tips, fact checking websites, and resources to help you discern whether the news and other information you see, read, and hear about is real or fake. Become information literate and media literate to avoid being duped. Learn to be a critical consumer and producer of information. Critically evaluate information (e.g, distinguish fake news from real news). Be aware of ethical and unethical uses of information, including plagiarism.

wooden blocks that show the letters for Fact and Fake

About Fake News

Much of the discourse on ‘fake news’ conflates misinformation with disinformation. It is important to apply critical thinking skills to distinguish messages that are true from those that are false, and messages that are created, produced or distributed by “agents” who intend to do harm from those that are not:

Dis-information: false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.

Mis-information: incorrect or misleading information; not necessarily spread deliberately or intended to influence opinion

Fake news is “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.

"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


  • 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."
  • Propaganda - “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person”
  • Satire - The use of humor, irony, and exaggeration to ridicule a subject, often a politician.

Source: Definitions from:

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’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).

Make informed judgments

Stay Alert. Stay Informed.

Do you receive information and accept it as truth? Do you know when you are being manipulated? Do you receive information and question it? Falling victim to disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation is a consequence of not knowing HOW to question information received in a multitude of ways, especially through social media. Critical thinking is a foundational skill for all of us and essential for good judgment. 

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