Telling the Truth

How to spot misinformation and fight fake news


In the age of rampant false news, nobody is immune from deception. Manipulated videos and opinion articles are packaged as factual, vetted journalism. As we prepare for the 2020 presidential election during a pandemic, how do we sort fact from fiction?

A group of 10 Honors College undergraduate students spent the 2019-20 school year researching media literacy and disinformation. To share their findings, the students created an online competition with cash prizes.

They also taught mini workshops to middle schoolers—the age many kids start their own social media accounts. What did they learn? Here are some of their tips.   

1Consider the source. Many website names are meant to look and sound credible. They may be very similar to a well-known news organization, with just one letter or number changed. Explore the “about” page if it exists and note whether the site publicly acknowledges its contributors and editors.

2 Check the byline. Suspicion should arise if there is no byline or if it only includes a username. If the author’s full name is there, take a look at some of their other articles.

3 Scrutinize the photo. Fake articles often include generic stock photos of things like police lights that could have been taken anytime, anywhere. Credible news stories will include the most relevant photo possible.

4 Examine the attributions. Information within an article that is attributed to a person should include a full name and title. If you have time, follow linked sources to see if they are referenced or reported by other trustworthy sites.

5 Run it through a fact-checker. Before you believe or share an article, run the URL through a fact-checker site such as Politifact, Snopes, FactCheck, or TinEye.

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