The internet is full of unreliable news sources, be it used to spread fake news or not, it is crucial to always check the reliability of your news source. Here are the main factors to consider when checking the credibility of any website:

1. Watch out if known/reputable news sites are also reporting on the story: Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.

2. If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY: It’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue. Thanks to Ed Brayton for this tip! 

3. Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification: Does the website mention/link to a study or source? Look up the source/study. Do you think it’s being accurately reflected and reported? Are officials being cited? Can you confirm their quotes elsewhere? Some media literacy and critical scholars call this triangulation: verify details, facts, quotes, etc. with multiple sources. 

4. Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources:  Many fake and questionable news sites utilize very bad designs. Usually, this means screens are cluttered with text and heavy-handed photoshopping or born-digital images.

5. Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs). 

6. Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.

7. Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: These sites take pieces of accurate information and then package that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).

8. Watch out for common news websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources (remember: this is also the domain for Colombia!) 

9. Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.

10. Social Media AnalysisLook up the website on Facebook. Do the headlines and posts rely on sensational or provocative language– aka clickbait– in order to attract attention and encourage likes, clickthroughs, and shares? Do the headlines and social media descriptions match or accurately reflect the content of the linked article? (this step isn’t particularly good at helping us find fake news, but it can help us identify other misleading news sources)

11. If the website you’re reading encourages you to DOX individuals, it’s unlikely to be a legitimate source of news. 

12. It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Sources that require readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources are more reliable.

This article is based on: False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources by  by Melissa Zimdars


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