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Fake News

This guide will help you distinguish real news from fake. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, many Americans believe fake news stories cause significant harm to the nation. Another study by Stanford University concluded that students can't always tell fake news from real news. Fake news stories are also frequently shared on social media.

  • What is Fake News?
  • How to Spot Fake News
  • Fact-Checking Sites
  • Resources
  • Test Your Knowledge


What is fake news?
There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.

CATEGORY ONE: 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 on social media.

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

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

CATEGORY FOUR: 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 One), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category Two), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category Three) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category Four). Some articles fall under more than one category. It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

Why should you care?

1: You 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.

2: Fake 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.

3: Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people. Bogus data was used to link vaccines with autism, igniting an anti-vaccine campaign. Purveyors of fake and misleading medical advice help perpetuate myths like HIV and AIDS aren't related. These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.

4: Real news can benefit you. If you want to buy stock in a company, you want to read accurate articles about that company so you can invest wisely. If you are planning on voting in an election, you want to read as much good information on a candidate so you can vote for the person who best represents your ideas and beliefs. Fake news will not help you make money or make the world a better place, but real news can.

Adapted from Fake News (Campus Library, Indiana University East), licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.



Tips for spotting fake news

  1. Read beyond the headline.
    Fake news sites often use attention-grabbing headlines. Read the entire story.
  2. Investigate the website or source the story appeared in.
    What is its mission? Who is the publisher? Is it a respected news outlet? Or is it a personal website or blog? Pay attention to the URL. Some websites ending in “” are actually fake versions of legitimate news sites.
  3. Check the author.
    Do a Google search or check LinkedIn. Is the author credible? What are his/her credentials?
  4. Look at the sources.
    Does the article reference outside sources to support its claims? Are they trustworthy?
  5. Check the date.
    Does the article take an older story but give it a new headline and pretend it just happened? Click through the links to find the actual date.
  6. Beware of bias including your own.
    Is the article skewed toward a particular point of view? Are you more likely to believe it simply because it reinforces your own beliefs?
  7. Do other news sites or outlets report the same story?
    If not, it’s probably fake.
  8. Is it a joke?
    Some sites intentionally publish satirical news articles which are sometimes mistakenly taken as fact.
  9. Ask the experts.
    Check with a librarian or consult a fact-checking site.

Want more tips?

Avoid fake news

Avoid fake news by only using sources you know are reputable. Do not rely on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Reputable news sources include the Associated Press and Reuters.

You can also search MCC's library databases which contain articles from thousands of vetted sources.

Use these sites to check the accuracy of a source's claims:

Is that image or video real or fake?

The following sites will help you determine if an image as been altered:

The following resources will help you learn more about fake news.


Fake News in the News



Can you spot fake news?

  • Factitious 2020 - Are these Covid-19 articles real or fake? Take the quiz to test your knowledge.
  • News Lit Quiz: Should You Share It? - Can you distinguish between social media posts that are false or misleading and those that are credible?
  • PolitiTruth - Think you can tell the difference between True and False? Download the free iOS and Android mobile app to play the game.

How to Spot Fake News

Image by The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.