How to spot fake news

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Ah, the good old days when you could just pick up a newspaper or watch the evening news to find out what was going on in the world. Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Lloyd Robertson were trusted sources of information and you didn’t have to question what was reported.

But things aren’t so simple now.

With online news and social media being so popular we sometimes don’t know if the news we read is true or not. That article you just read about the latest political scandal/celebrity meltdown/diet secret might not be the real deal—it could be fake news, commonly known as click bait.

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet (except this)
Fake news is a made up (or exaggerated) story, usually with one goal in mind: attract as many clicks as possible. You’ve probably noticed that news sites of every level are plastered with advertising, and the people responsible for this content know that by attracting thousands of people a certain portion will clicks those ads. Every time an ad gets clicked the host site makes a little money. This click bait is also used to confuse the public and influence political opinion. 

So how can you tell if what you’re reading is the real deal?

Consider the Source

Who’s behind the About Us?

The writer's on the wall

 

Consider the source
One of the easiest ways to spot click bait is to check the domain name of the site the story is coming from. If the web site address is a slight variation of a real news organization, this is typically a red flag.

With that in mind, it’s important to say that some news organizations may use multiple legitimate domains in addition to their parent site. Take thelocal.com, for example. This organization operates several country-specific versions of their site, such as www.thelocal.de.

The Daily Dot has been maintaining a list of noted fake news sites on Facebook (we haven’t checked these ourselves, however). And you can type in a URL on a site called Real or Satire as another way to check.

If "wordpress.com" or "blogger.com" appear in the domain name, this could mean it’s a personal blog and likely not site associated with a large news organization. The article may not be accurate, or it may be someone’s opinion and not an unbiased reporting of an event.

Who’s behind the About Us?
You should be able to learn more about the news agency (including their address and staff list) by reading the About Us section of their website. Legitimate sites will give you complete contact information. If the site is in doubt, look it up on Snopes.com, which also keeps an up to date list of fake news websites. A site with no identifying information is a fairly clear sign it’s not a trustworthy news source.

The writer’s on the wall
Search the name on the article’s byline and you should be able to find more information about the writer. If the information you find doesn’t match what it says on the news site, you’ve likely stumbled onto nice piece of click bait. Legitimate journalists tend to be "verified" on social media, which those little blue check marks next to their names indicate. Check it out the next time you’re online, and while you’re at it, make sure to follow us on Twitter @startca.

Stay tuned for Part 2 to find out more ways to spot fake news!

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