Evaluating (mis)information

On Facebook, Google, and in other corners of the online world, false stories are being posted, shared, and believed. Everyone should be concerned over the spread of this "fake news" and all types of misinformation. Given our modern-day information overload, each of us must know how to recognize trustworthy news sources while critically evaluating the many forms of information that we see on a daily basis.

This website offers resources for the well-informed citizen on how to avoid fake news and cognitive bias and understand what post-truth really means. Explore these resources, ask for help from your librarians and instructors, and become your own fact-checker today!

Fake news is not a new phenomenon, but the 2016 elections have brought it to the forefront of our attention. The term "fake news" has become a catch-all for all different kinds of news that promote false information, intentionally mislead readers, manipulate our emotions, and provide affirmation to our existing viewpoints and biases.

To complicate things further, it's also becoming more and more common for many people to label news that disagrees with their own viewpoints as fake, without further investigating or verifying the information being presented. So, sometimes you might hear that a news article is fake or that a news source is fake, even when it's pretty reliable. When in doubt, fact check for yourself and/or ask an expert.

Here are some different types of false, misleading, satirical, or otherwise questionable "news":

  • Fake News or Hoax News: Stories that promote false information. While they may be loosely influenced by facts, these stories can't be verified. These stories often rely on language designed to get an emotional response (like outrage) from readers.
  • Clickbait: Outrageous headlines and stories designed to get readers to click open links to a particular webpage. These often try to manipulate emotions or elicit surprise. You've seen a lot of this already - it often involves politics or celebrities.
  • Hyper-partisan or Heavily Biased News: Stories that present facts, often carefully selected, through a biased perspective. There are different levels of bias, but credible reporters and news sites attempt to present facts with objectivity.
  • News Parody/Satire: Stories that parody current events and reporting. While they often use false headlines, they are created to poke fun at current events or people, not to convince readers that the information is true.

For details on different kinds of fake and unreliable news, take a look at this page from Media Matters: Understanding the Fake News Universe.

Watch: Why Do Our Brains Love Fake News? (from Above the Noise - KQED)