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Fake News Guide: Tips and Resources

What is Fake News?

Fake news stories attempt to pass off as real false claims that are not supported by any credible evidence. 

Some people and companies profit financially from the creation and sharing of fake news stories.  So there is a clear profit motive.  There’s also a political motive since fake news can also be designed to influence and persuade. 

Image source: Snopes' Field Guide to Fake News Sites and Hoax Purveyors

Types of Fake News:

As noted above, fake news is most commonly defined as a fabricated story that imitates the style and appearance of real news articles with an intention to deceive.This deception can be motivated by mischief or calculated disinformation. Fake news can also fall into one of several different types:

  • Clickbait: a story, often sensational or featuring a sensational headline, geared toward getting “clicks” (to generate ad revenue)
     
  • Sponsored content: a story that is made to appear as independent journalism when in fact it is public relations or advertising
     
  • Fabricated journalism: news stories that are completely made up (including fabricated quotes and sources, etc.)

Satire that parodies the format typical of mainstream journalism (e.g. theonion.com) is sometimes also described as fake news since some readers may mistakenly read it as real news reporting.

The sections below offer an overview of tools and resources you can use to help identify fake news stories. 


How to Spot Fake News

Lists of Known Fake News Sites

The idea here is to help you spot fake news by knowing which sites are purveyors of fake news. Of course, it's not always that simple: keep in mind that fake news can appear on sites that don't appear on any list of known fake news sources, and that some news sources may produce reliable as well as unreliable news stories. 

Two widely-circulated lists:

Evaluating News Stories and News Sources

Knowing what to look for and what questions to ask can help when trying to identify fake news.  The following "checklists" provide lists of criteria and questions to consider when assessing a news story:

  • The CRAAP Test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose)
    A list of questions designed to help evaluate information. The U. of Toronto at Mississauga Library has a handy graphic, along with a link to the original CRAAP Test.  
     
  • The P.R.O.V.E.N. Test for Evaluating Sources (Purpose, Relevance, Objectivity, Verifiability, Expertise, Newness)
    Designed to help determine if information sources are credible. Access via the Santa Barbara City Colledge Luria Library Real vs. Fake News Guide.
     
  • The Process of Establishing Integrity Checklist, by Dr. Susan Maret, Lecturer at the School of Information, San Jose State University, and Project Censored contributor.
    Designed to provide a "self-empowering and didactic path to finding trustworthy articles and sources of information."  Access via the Global Critical Media Literacy Project; direct link to the Checklist.  

IFLA (the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) has created the following "How to Spot Fake News" infographic based on FactCheck.org's How to Spot Fake News report:

http://www.ifla.org/files/assets/hq/topics/info-society/images/how-to-spot-fake-news.jpg

FactCheck.org also produced the How to Spot Fake News video guide: 


Fake News Detectors and Labeling

Facebook and Google are both developing systems and tools designed to help identify fake news. Other organizations have developed browser plug-ins to label fake news stories and sources. Just how successful such tools will be remains to be seen: will they be effective? will people trust them? Here are two examples (more will be added shortly):

  • B.S. Detector
    Maintained by The Self Agency, LLC and powered by OpenSources, a "professionally curated list of unreliable or otherwise questionable sources." Research team headed be Melissa Zimdars.
     
  • This is Fake
    Created by Slate.com; fake stories identified through "crowdsourcing and human moderation by Slate staffers and contributors." More details here

Note: watch out for fake fake news checkers. As with news sources and stories, fake news checkers and detectors also need to be critically assessed. Find out who is behind a given fake news checker and how they go about identifying fake news. Check to see what a fake news checker says about a range of news sources, not just one or two as this may not be sufficient to identify any biases or agendas. 

Fact-checking

The rise in prominence of fake news has also led to a rise in prominence of fact-checking sites. A recently-published book on fact-checking discusses the role of fact-checking in journalism, the practices of fact-checking organizations, and also the limits of fact-checking. Deciding What's True: The Rise of Political Fact-checking in American Journalism by Lucas Graves is available at the library at: PN 4784 .O24 G73 2016.

Below are four commonly recommended sites that aim to verify claims made by news media and politicians and debunk fake news. 

  • FactsCan.ca
    Self-described as an "independent and nonpartisan fact-checker on Canadian federal politics."  Established in 2015.  Not frequently updated (based on visits in January - March 2017). 
     
  • FactCheck.org
    A self-described "nonpartisan, nonprofit" project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania that "aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics"  Monitors the factual accuracy of claims and statements by major U.S. political players in TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.
     
  • Politifact
    "Rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics." Operated by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times
     
  • Snopes.com
    Independently owned and operated online rumour investigator. Well-regarded and in operations since 1995.   

More Fact Checking Sites:

As reported by Poynter in February 2017, the Duke Reporters' Lab indicates there are now over 100 fact-checking initiatives in 47 countries

Another useful resources:

The Chicago Guide to Fact Checking, by Brooke Borel.  The University of Chicago Press, 2016. 

The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking

The short guide offers tips and describes best practices for fact-checking for various sorts of media, including magazines, books and film.  Designed as a guide for professional fact-checkers, this book will be of interest to anyone who wishes to learn how to read like a fact-checker. Available at the library at ZA 3075 .B67 2016.


Other Useful Tools

Internet Archive: Wayback Machine
Digital archive of publicly accessible Web pages and information from the Internet. Launched in 2001 and operated by Internet Archive, a non-profit organization located in San Fancisco. Want to compare facts or analysis available on a website today compared to information available on that same site last year, or five years ago?  Give the Wayback Machine a try.    

Wolfram Alpha
A “computational knowledge engine.” Aims “to collect and curate all objective data… and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything.”  For example: can be used to find facts about past weather for a given place and date, something that can be helpful when trying to determine the credibility of claims made about a photograph.

Reverse Image Search

Find information about an image to help determine if it matches a story, identify a location or track its use. These tools can also help you determine if an image has been digitally altered. 

Compare and Contrast

  • Allsides.com
    “News and issues from multiple perspectives” (left, centre, right). Includes a search tool that aims to highlight different perspectives on a topic. Not a fact-checking tool, per se, may be a useful resources for discovering different takes on a story. 

Understanding the role of search engine and social media algorithms

Personalized search results and social media feeds work in part by collecting and using information about your online activity. The general idea is to give you more of what the companies behind search engines and social media think you like and want. This may seem like a good thing: relevant-seeming search results and social media posts you want to read and like. After a while, though, these systems can create filter bubbles that narrow the diversity of information that is presented to you. 

Want to know more about filter bubbles?
The Fake News guide developed by Santa Barbara CIty College's Luria Library has two good sections on this topic (check out the Home and Avoiding Fake News pages).

The Guide also features Eli Pariser's TED Talk, Beware Online "Filter Bubbles" (also available below). Pariser's book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, is available at the Mount Allison Library: ZA 4237 .P37 2011.

 


News Sources at Your Libraries

Mount Allison Library:

News Databases:

The Mount Allison Libraries subscribe to a number of databases providing access to Canadian, U.S., and international newspapers, wire services, magazines, and broadcast transcripts.

These news databases permit you to search multiple news sources at once for news stories from a given date or across a range of dates. In some cases you can search and access "today's" newspapers (e.g. The New York Times, in LexisNexis); in other cases you can search for news stories from decades and even centuries ago (e.g. The Globe and Mail from 1844, ProQuest).  News and analysis from alternative and independent news sources can be discovered through the Alternative Press Index.   

The Mount Allison University Library's news databases may be accessed from the A-Z List of Databases: News.  

Print and Microfilm:

In addition to news databases, the library also receives a small number of newspapers in print and has a larger number of newspapers on microfilm (including the New York Times, London Times, and many regional newspapers). These may be discovered using the Library Catalogue. (A list of newspapers on microfilm is also available at the Research Help Desk). 

Guides to Online News Sources:

Selected online news sources may be accessed on the News Sources on the Web page, and alternative and independent news sources may be accessed on the Alternative Media Guide

NB Public Libraries:

Additional news databases, including Eureka.cc, may be accessed via the NB Public Libraries 

Eureka.cc indexes and provides access to community papers from across Canada, including the Sackville Tribune-Post, and French-language newspapers such as L’Acadie Nouvelle, L’Actualité, Le Devoir, Le Droit and La Presse. 

Note: Eureka.cc also includes non-news sources such as Facebook and Twitter posts on topic such as "banking," "energy," "law," and "pharmaceutical" pulled from what are described as "the social media accounts of authoritative, public, or private organizations, and individuals."


Recognizing Good Journalism

Knowing how to spot fake news is important. So is knowing how to recognize good journalism

In other words, become familiar with journalism standards and guidelines so that you can recognize a good journalism when you see it, and spot stories masquerading as news that don't live up to these standards. 

Below are just a few examples of good journalism standards: 

• Facts are verified, with evidence and sources.
• Context is provided; important details not left out, misrepresented or oversimplified.
• Sources are clearly identified; if anonymous sources are used, an explanation if given. 
• Subjects of news coverage are given a chance to respond.
• News and editorials (opinion) are labeled accordingly.  
 

For more detail, see the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics and the Canadian Association of Journalists' (CAJ) Ethics Guidelines.


Other Library Guides on Fake News

No one guide can offer comprehensive lists of tips, strategies and resources. Below are several other library guides to Fake New that feature additional information, tips, and resources:

This is by no means a complete list -- more guides will be added soon. 

Suggestions welcome: know of a good one that isn't listed here?  Please let us know! 


Readings

Selected articles about the rise in prominence of fake news:

"A Finder's Guide To Facts" by Steve Inskeep, NPR

"Moral panic over fake news hides the real enemy – the digital giants" by Evgeny Morozov, The Guardian

"Meet the Professor Who’s Trying to Help You Steer Clear of Clickbait" by Nadia Dreid, Chronicle of Higher Education.

"How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study" by Sapna Maheshwari, The New York Times

 



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