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Made-up stories and false information that come from fake-news web sites can spread rapidly on the Internet, usually through social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Recent media coverage has illuminated the way these fake stories have influenced people’s views. The San Francisco Chronicle published an informative article on the topic in December.
In addition, reporter Marissa Lang put together a guide to spotting fake news. Highlights from the guide are below. Your Castro Valley librarians hope this will help you be an informed and active consumer of news.
Tip #1 Read the URL
All web sites have an address also called the URL. Many fake-news stories are easy to spot just by looking at the URL. According to Lang, “Bogus-news web sites that appear to belong to a legitimate news source tend to have an extra suffix at the end of the address that isn’t .com. For instance the web site http://www.abcnews.com.co is a fake-news site. The actual web site for ABC News is http://www.abcnews.go.com.
Tip #2 Go Beyond the Headline
Some people read only the headline of a fake news article and then share it online without reading the whole story. Going deeper into the story can help you determine if it is fake. Look at the author’s name. Is he or she a real person? Does the story actually back up what the headline is proclaiming?
Tip #3 Check the Sources
Who or what is quoted in the story? If an article is reporting on a study or report, you can do a quick web search to determine if that study or report actually was completed by an organization. If “experts” are quoted, it’s often easy to determine if those people actually exist.
Tip #4 Check the Date
If a story is several months or years old, conduct your own search to see if there have been any updates.
Tip #5 Call in the Experts
If the story seems sensational and really makes you upset, that’s a sign you should do a little more digging. There are independent organizations that specialize in fact checking. Lang recommends Snopes, Politifact and FactCheck.
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