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Avoid Fake News and Evaluate Information: Avoid Fake News

Avoid Fake News

 

Double Check your News

Evaluation Questions to ask

Red dot used as a bulletWhere did this information come from?
Red dot used as a bulletIs the author of the source clearly stated?
Red dot used as a bulletAre there contact details for the author?
Red dot used as a bulletDoes the author list their credentials and affiliations, and can they be verified?
Red dot used as a bulletIs the information supported by evidence?
Red dot used as a bulletHas the information been peer reviewed or refereed?
Red dot used as a bulletAre there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

What to look for on a webpage

Red dot used as a bulletCheck the title, the section headings, and the opening paragraphs to see if a person or organization is named as being responsible for the content of the webpages. Keep in mind that the webmaster or person who designed the webpage is not necessarily the one responsible for the content of the page.

Red dot used as a bulletIf you can't find any information about the author on the page you're looking at, then you can go back in stages to the home page.  Delete from the end of the URL backwards to the first slash mark ("/") and press Enter on the keyboard.  If you still don't see any information about the author, back up to the next slash mark. Keep going until you come to the site's homepage. See the Internet Detective URL clues page for more detail.

Red dot used as a bulletCheck the domain name portion of the URL as the domain name often indicates what type of organisation and what country the webpage comes from.

What to look for in print material

Red dot used as a bulletCheck the book cover blurb and look for information about the credentials of the author.

Red dot used as a bulletCheck for references;  in journals look for information about the credentials of the editorial board (if there is one).

Websites and Domain Names

Red dot used as a bulletOne way to get a quick idea of who is sponsoring or publishing a website is to understand the domain name portion of the URL.

.com

Commercial businesses and for-profit organization.
.edu Educational institutions including primary schools in many countries.
.net Organization directly involved in Internet operations.
.org Miscellaneous organizations that don't fit any other category, such as non-profit groups.
.gov Governmental organizations.
~ (tilde) Web pages created independently by individuals.
Country Codes A two-letter international standard abbreviation such as ".de" for Germany or ".uk" for the United Kingdom.
.ac.uk  The .ac refers to "academic" and is used by United Kingdom universities

Red dot used as a bullet Are your sources objective?

Red dot used as a bulletBeing able to recognize bias is a key skill to acquire. If an information source is biased this does not necessarily mean that it can't be used, but you may need to look for other sources with differing points of view, or sources written objectively to "balance the bias scales."

Red dot used as a bulletIs the information written on behalf of a lobby group, think tank, religious or political organization? Read the "About Us" page and do more research to find out about the author and / or organization if necessary.

Red dot used as a bulletAre facts and arguments presented for both sides of an issue or only the author's own point of view?

Red dot used as a bulletDoes the webpage include advertising? If so, can you tell clearly which parts are advertisement and which parts are information?

Red dot used as a bulletDoes the webpage present as information but is actually an advertisement?

Red dot used as a bulletDoes the page use inflammatory language, images, or graphic styles?

Red dot used as a bulletInformation about the author and the author's contact details – look for a link to a university or professional organization.

Red dot used as a bulletInformation about any organization associated with the webpage – look for a link called "About Us" or something similar.

Red dot used as a bulletLinks to other articles and publications by the person or organization.

Red dot used as a bulletIf  you can't find any information about the author on the webpage, do another search to see if it is possible to  identify the credentials of the author and /or organization.

What to look for in print material

Red dot used as a bulletCheck the book cover for biographical information about the author.

Red dot used as a bulletCheck within the source for a list of references, bibliography or footnotes.

What to look for in print material

Red dot used as a bulletFor books examine the preface or introduction for hints about the author's purpose and point of view. For journals check whether the journal is a refereed or peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

Is the Author Credible? Questions to ask

Red dot used as a bulletWhat qualifications does this person or organization have to discuss this topic? Does the author have a university degree in the discipline? Is the author an amateur, or someone using the opportunity to express their own opinions.

Red dot used as a bulletDoes the URL indicate what type of organization the information is coming from?  If an organization is responsible for the pages, is the organization widely recognized as a source of scholarly and reliable information?  For example, CSIRO for science topics.

Red dot used as a bulletHas the author provided any evidence to back up their information?

Red dot used as a bulletCan the information and the references be verified elsewhere?

Red dot used as a bulletIs there any evidence the information has gone through a peer-review process?

If you can't verify that the information is authoritative, don't use it!

Red dot used as a bulletCheck the title, the section headings, and the opening paragraphs to see if a person or organization is named as being responsible for the content of the webpages – look for a link called "About Us" or something similar.
Red dot used as a bulletInformation about the author and the author's contact details – look for a link to a university or professional organization. Keep in mind that the webmaster or person who designed the webpage is not necessarily the one responsible for the content of the page.

Red dot used as a bulletLook for links to other articles and publications by the person or organization.
Red dot used as a bulletIf you can't find any information about the author on the page you're looking at, then you can go back in stages to the home page.  Delete from the end of the URL backwards to the first slash mark ("/") and press Enter on the keyboard.  If you still don't see any information about the author, back up to the next slash mark. Keep going until you come to the site's homepage. See the Internet Detective URL clues page for more detail.

Red dot used as a bulletIf  you can't find any information about the author on the webpage, do another search to see if it is possible to  identify the credentials of the author and /or organization.
Red dot used as a bulletIs the information written on behalf of a lobby group, think tank, religious or political organization? Read the "About Us" page and do more research to find out about the author and / or organization if necessary. Check the domain name portion of the URL as the domain name often indicates what type of organization and what country the webpage comes from.
Red dot used as a bulletDoes the webpage include advertising? If so, can you tell clearly which parts are advertisement and which parts are information?
Red dot used as a bulletDoes the webpage present as information but is actually an advertisement?
Red dot used as a bulletDoes the page use inflammatory language, images, or graphic styles?

Red dot used as a bulletOne way to get a quick idea of who is sponsoring or publishing a website is to understand the domain name portion of the URL.

.com

Commercial businesses and for-profit organization.
.edu Educational institutions including primary schools in many countries.
.net Organization directly involved in Internet operations.
.org Miscellaneous organizations that don't fit any other category, such as non-profit groups.
.gov Governmental organizations.
~ (tilde) Web pages created independently by individuals.
Country Codes A two-letter international standard abbreviation such as ".de" for Germany or ".uk" for the United Kingdom.
.ac.uk  The .ac refers to "academic" and is used by United Kingdom universities

Questions to ask

Red dot used as a bulletWhat qualifications does this person or organization have to discuss this topic? Does the author have a university degree in the discipline? Is the author an amateur, or someone using the opportunity to express their own opinions.
Red dot used as a bulletDoes the URL indicate what type of organization the information is coming from?  If an organization is responsible for the pages, is the organization widely recognized as a source of scholarly and reliable information?  For example, CSIRO for science topics.
Red dot used as a bulletHas the author provided any evidence to back up their information?
Red dot used as a bulletCan the information and the references be verified elsewhere?
Red dot used as a bulletIs there any evidence the information has gone through a peer-review process?
Red dot used as a bullet Are your sources objective?
Red dot used as a bulletBeing able to recognize bias is a key skill to acquire. If an information source is biased this does not necessarily mean that it can't be used, but you may need to look for other sources with differing points of view, or sources written objectively to "balance the bias scales."
Red dot used as a bulletAre facts and arguments presented for both sides of an issue or only the author's own point of view?

Don't use information you can't verify is authoritative!

According to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College, there are four broad categories of fake news.

Red dot used as a bulletCATEGORY 1

Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.

Red dot used as a bulletCATEGORY 2

Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information.

Red dot used as a bulletCATEGORY 3

Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions.

Red dot used as a bulletCATEGORY 4: 

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

No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3), or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.) Some articles fall under more than one category.

Why should you care about whether or not your news is real or fake?

Red dot used as a bulletYou deserve the truth.  You are smart enough to make up your own mind - as long as you have the real facts in front of you.  You have every right to be insulted when you read fake news, because you are in essence being treated like an idiot.

Red dot used as a bulletFake news destroys your credibility.  If your arguments are built on bad information, it will be much more difficult for people to believe you in the future.

Red dot used as a bulletFake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people.  Purveyors of fake and misleading medical advice like Mercola.com and NaturalNews.com help perpetuate myths like HIV and AIDS aren't related, or that vaccines cause autism.  These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.

Red dot used as a bulletFake news is expensive.  Every year, Americans lose $39 billion in investment funds as a result of fake news, according to University of Baltimore professor Roberto Cavazos.

Always make sure the content you use is good information!