Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Please see credits and acknowledgements at bottom of page!
5 Ways To Spot Fake News from Common Sense Media
Basic Questions to Ask About Any News Media
Common Sense Media recommends that you keep the following questions in mind regarding any media:
Here are a few basic questions to consider whenever you encounter a piece of media:
- Who made this?
- Who is the target audience?
- Who paid for this? Or, who gets paid if you click on this?
- Who might benefit or be harmed by this message?
- What is left out of this message that might be important?
- Is this credible (and what makes you think that)?
(Thanks to Project Look Sharp for these questions.)
Can You Tell Real from Fake?
Evaluating a News Article Infographic from EasyBib
How to Spot Fake News
Further tips from Common Sense Media to help you spot fake news:
You might enjoy learning tricks to spot fake news. Here are a few things to watch for:
- Look for unusual URLs or site names, including those that end with ".co" -- these are often trying to appear like legitimate news sites, but they aren't.
- Look for signs of low quality, such as words in all caps, headlines with glaring grammatical errors, bold claims with no sources, and sensationalist images (women in bikinis are popular clickbait on fake news sites). These are clues that you should be skeptical of the source.
- Check a site's "About Us" section. Find out who supports the site or who is associated with it. If this information doesn't exist -- and if the site requires that you register before you can learn anything about its backers -- you have to wonder why they aren't being transparent.
- Check Snopes, Wikipedia, and Google before trusting or sharing news that seems too good (or bad) to be true.
- Consider whether other credible, mainstream news outlets are reporting the same news. If they're not, it doesn't mean it's not true, but it does mean you should dig deeper.
- Check your emotions. Clickbait and fake news strive for extreme reactions. If the news you're reading makes you really angry or super smug, it could be a sign that you're being played. Check multiple sources before trusting.
(Thanks to Professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College for some of these tips.)
Deceptive Detective Poster
Put a News Article to the Test
Scott Bedley, a teacher, started asking his students to examine seven different elements of a news article. If the information checks out on each of these points, it has a high likelihood of being accurate. Still, passing the test is not a guarantee that it’s fact.
- Copyright: have students to check the bottom of the webpage to see if the information has been submitted for ownership.
- Verification with multiple sources: Students must double check the information on a few different web pages. Like in a trial, the more corroborating witnesses, the more likely the truth will be discovered.
- Credibility of source, such as between History.com versus a random unknown source: check if the source has been recently created. Sources that have been around for a while can show reliability over time and be tested by hindsight, whereas recently created sources don’t carry much of a track record.
- Date published: check how recently the page was updated to see how current the information is and whether anything has changed.
- Author's expertise and background with the subject: Students should check if the author is someone who has dedicated time and effort to learning this subject. For example, a university professor typically has increased credibility versus a hobbyist.
- Does it match your prior knowledge: does the information matches up with what they have learned before
- Does it seem realistic: use common sense. Does something seem authentic or probable?
IFL Fake News Infographic
Can You Read a Web Page?
The following files are screenshots from Slate.com, a popular website. Let's see if you can tell news from .... well, let's see what it really is!!
We'll spend some time examining features on the first screenshot of the site, and then get into a deeper analysis with the second screenshot.