In the age of digital information overload and the current divisive climate in the United States, discerning whether information you read is fact-based or fake can be tricky. As you scroll through social media, it’s important to keep a keen, skeptical eye and an awareness of our own and others’ bias. It’s also critical to carefully consider wild claims and suspect sources. A well-known nonprofit, for example, may provide seemingly credible sourcing for a particular story, but lean toward their own agenda. A trusted news organization may have sponsored content—a.k.a native ads—peppered into its homepage, which can be tricky to spot. A website may look credible but be devoid of truth. The key is to identify objective news sources you trust and scrutinize content you come across. Think you can spot “fake news?” Take the quiz!
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Which story is fake?
Obama did not ban the national anthem during sporting events. It’s important when assessing the validity of a story you see online to look at the source closely. At first glance, the story here appears to be from the credible news organization ABC News, but the details indicate otherwise. If a logo seems “off,” or a web address has extra letters tacked on to the “.com,” you’re probably looking at something from a non-credible source.
Which story is fake?
There are many websites like The Onion that spread false headlines for the sake of humor throughout social media. Some disclose that they’re satirical and farcical (usually in the About Us section), while others do not. When you see a shocking or unusual headline, poke around and see whether you can validate it by finding the same story on other credible sources.
Always check your sources. Infowars.com has a history of touting conspiracy theories, while The Guardian is known for journalism, having won a Pulitzer Prize for public service.
When a headline seems surprising or outrageous, always do some digging. If several other well-respected news outlets are reporting the same story, it’s likely trustworthy information. On the other hand, if you evaluate the evidence and cannot find credible corroboration you can be pretty sure it’s false—this is the case with the claim that Speaker Ryan has expressly confirmed Obama illegally wiretapped Trump.
Justin Beiber is not being considered as ambassador to the US. Burrard Street Journal is not a mainstream media outlet. Trustworthy accounts tend to be recognizable, have tens of thousands of followers and are verified by Twitter with a blue check mark in the profile.
Which of the two stories is not a genuine news article?
News organizations need money in order to run. Some of those funds come from reader subscriptions, while much of it comes from advertisers. Thus, some of the content even on reputable news sites is “sponsored,” which means it’s written to represent a given company or product—not written objectively by the news organization. While the Washington Post piece may read like a typical news article, it is disclosed as “Content From Bank of America.” Keep an eye out for disclosures like this when reading online.
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