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Avoid Fake News and Evaluate Information: Fact Checking

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Sick and tired of seeing misinformation? Never know who or what to trust? Can't figure out if what you've heard is true? Feel Duped? Want better tools to sort truth from fiction? Here's a quick guide to sorting out facts, weighing information and being knowledgeable online and off

Check Credentials - Is the author specialized in the field that the article is concerned with? Does s/he currently work in that field? Check LinkedIn or do a quick Google search to see if the author can speak about he subject with authority and accuracy.

Read the “About Us” section. Does the resource have one? It may be on a tab at the top of the page, or a link at the bottom of the page, but all reputable websites will have some type of About Us section and will provide a  way for you to contact them.

Read beyond the “About Us” section. Search the organization to see what others have to say about them. 

Look for Bias - does the article seem to lean toward a particular point of view? Does it link to sites, files, or images that seem to skew left or right? Biased articles may not be giving you the whole story.

Check the Dates - Like eggs and milk, information can have an expiration date. In many cases, use the most up-to-date information you can find.

Check out the Source - When an article cites sources, it's good to check them out. Sometimes, official-sounding associations are really biased think tanks or represent only a fringe view of a large group of people. If you can't find sources, read as much about the topic as you can to get a feel for what's already out there and decide for your self if the article is accurate or not.

Use the CRAAP Test - Currency, Relevance, Accuracy, Authority and Purpose.

Interrogate the URLs - We see quite a bit of domain manipulation these days. For instance, what looks like an .edu domain, followed by .co or “lo” is likely a fake or deceptive site.  If you are you seeing a slightly variant version of a well-known URL, do a little investigating.

Who owns the website posting the information? - You can find out at either or at Both of these websites allow you to perform a WHOIS search. Whenever someone registers a website address, they are required to enter their contact information. When you get to your WHOIS search, enter in the domain (the first part of the website URL). This step can be used to collect all the information when you question a source, or the informations purpose.

Suspect the sensational - When you see something posted that looks sensational, it is even more important to be skeptical. Exaggerated and provocative headlines with excessive use of capital letters or emotional language are serious red flags.

Judge Hard - If what you're reading seems too good to be true, or too weird, or too reactionary, it probably is.

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Use "Triangulation" to fact check a breaking news story

Image of triangulation using triangles

When an event breaks choose at least three trustworthy professional outlets for journalism. The BBCWashington Post, and New York Times all follow strict Journalism Code of Ethics. Look up the reporting on the event in three sites to see what evidence is repeated in each. For further vetting, wait twenty four hours after the event and repeat the triangulating exercise.

When evaluating sources, keep these definitions in mind. If you find yourself gravitating to bias sources that agree with your hypothesis, opinion, and/or belief, this is a red flag to seek out objective information in order to research your topic holistically. Who knows? Your original opinion might be wrong!

The following definitions will help students in assessing viewpoint.

Red dot used as a bulletBias: Prejudice or preconceived notion that causes a person to favor one person or side of the debate over another. In other words, a bending of facts, cherry-picking of facts, or a complete fabrication of information in order to fit a preconceived narrative.

Red dot used as a bulletConfirmation bias: When conducting research, this is your natural inclination to give more weight to information and arguments that agree with your own original opinions and/or beliefs.

Red dot used as a bulletModerate: Holding views that are neither excessive nor extreme.

Red dot used as a bulletNeutral: Not aligned with any side in a controversy, or with a particular political or ideological group.

Red dot used as a bulletObjective: Without bias. An objective position aims to be based on fact, rather than on personal feelings or prejudices.

Red dot used as a bulletSubjective: With bias or preconceived views. A subjective opinion is more affected by personal viewpoint or experiences than by fact.

Three strategies separate checkers from the rest of us:

Landing on an unfamiliar site, the first thing checkers did was to leave it.

If undergraduates read vertically, evaluating online articles as if they were printed news stories, fact-checkers read laterally, jumping off the original page, opening up a new tab, Googling the name of the organization or its president.

Dropped in the middle of a forest, hikers know they can't divine their way out by looking at the ground. They use a compass. Similarly, fact-checkers use the vast resources of the Internet to determine where information is coming from before they read it.

Second, fact-checkers know it's not about "About." 

They don't evaluate a site based solely on the description it provides about itself. If a site can masquerade as a nonpartisan think tank when funded by corporate interests and created by a Washington public relations firm, it can surely pull the wool over our eyes with a concocted "About" page.

Third, fact-checkers look past the order of search results.

Instead of trusting Google to sort pages by reliability (which reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of how Google works), the checkers mined URLs and abstracts for clues. They regularly scrolled down to the bottom of the search results page in their quest to make an informed decision about where to click first.

From "Why Students Can't Google Their Way to the Truth"
by Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew

Climate Feedback - A worldwide network of scientists sorting fact from fiction in climate change media coverage. - A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Hoax Slayer - Covers internet and email hoaxes and scams.

International Fact-Checking Network - Housed at the Poynter Institute, the Network promotes a code of principles. This page provides the code and a list of signatories.

Lead Stories LLC - A fact-checking site with special pages for "Red," "Blue," and "Coronavirus" misinformation.

McGill Office for Science and Society - From McGill University. A weekly news feed debunking myths and fake news online.

MISBAR - An Arab platform for checking facts and exposing falsehood in the public arena. Covers US as well as the Arab countries.

The News Literacy Project Facebook Page - A nonprofit whose purpose is to provide tools and resources to middle and high school students (and their classrooms) on media literacy

Open Secrets - From the nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, the Center for Responsive Politics, the nation's premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy.

Politifact - Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-check site.

The Poynter Institute - The Poynter Institute develops resources for journalists and writers, plus offers resources on fact checking and media literacy for the general public.

Professional Researcher Sites - Look up the author on research sites such as Researchgate, or using LinkedIn (a social network for professionals) to see if they are credible.

Quote Investigator - Who really said what? Researcher Garson O’Toole reports on his quests for truth about quotations.

A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science - From Nodes of Science, "a collaborative science communication and outreach network promoting skeptical inquiry and scientific reasoning throughout social media."

SciCheck - Focuses exclusively on false and misleading scientific claims that are made by partisans to influence public policy.

Snopes - Award-winning fact-checking site.

Spot the Troll - Learn the signs of online disinformation and internet trolls. The Spot the Troll quiz asks you to examine real social media profiles and posts and decide whether the person posting is legitimate or a troll.

The Washington Post Fact-Checker - While focused primarily on political facts, it covers specific claims in-depth and with plenty of cross-referencing.

Seeing isn't believing: The Washington Post guide to manipulated video - A terrific overview of the different kinds of faked video and how to identify them.