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Fake News


Did you know that "front groups" that look like local organizations or activists are sometimes used to make it appear that a movement, position, or campaign is locally motivated but in reality it is funded and organized by national corporations or rich individuals from elsewhere? This practice is known as astroturfing.

When deciding whether an organization is astroturfing, consider the following:

  • Who funded it (Was it a corporation, national foundation, or local money?)
  • Who founded it (Was it founded locally, and by whom?)
  • What interest that group might have in the action or initiative proposed (Is it financial, for instance, or related to larger social concerns?)

Source: Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, Ch. 37

Additional Resources for Analyzing Content

See the resources below for downloadable checklists to aid in reviewing a resource or news article.

Spotting Fake News

Spotting fake news is sometimes very obvious but can be very hard. Here are some strategies to assist in determining whether news is real or fake.

  • Triangulate -- verify news/headlines with 2 other sources.
  • Check your own biases -- don’t assume info is true/false just because it aligns with your beliefs.
  • Read outside the bubble -- you don’t have to agree with all you read, but it is helpful to be aware of opinions outside of your own.
  • Know the difference between satire, propaganda, infotainment, opinion, and dog-whistling -- they are related, but nuanced.
  • Check Snopes, Politifact,, Know Your Meme, and other fact-checking sources such as those listed on the Resources to Help Identify Fake News page of this guide.
  • Check the headline -- is it extreme, absurd, absolute, or flowery?
  • Check the source -- is it one you’re familiar with? Is there an author listed? Do you know the person?
  • What’s their angle? -- is the source considered conservative, liberal, or in between? Is what you’re reading an advertisement or otherwise sponsored content?
  • Does the website have an “about” page?
  • Is the site overrun with ads?
  • Are there supporting sources or citations?
  • Check the date -- is it current? Or is the site appropriating old news to further a point or agenda?

Source: Fake News and Alternative Facts: Information Literacy in a Post-Truth Era pp 23-25

Spotting Fake Images

Doctored images or images that are falsely attributed to a specific event are often some of the hardest "fake news" to determine. Watch the video below for some tips on assessing images or read one of the following articles:


Know Your Sources

Even well-known and well-revered sources can have a political &/or social leaning. See the Media Bias Chart below to see where some of your favorite news sources fall, and consider reading news from sources that fall on the other end of the spectrum.

Media Bias Chart 4.0

Source: Media Bias Chart, Version 4.0, updated Aug. 2018

In 2014, Pew Research Center conducted a year-long project on political polarization in America. View the report Political Polarization & Media Habits for details. Some noteworthy take-aways: 

  • Those at both the left and right ends of the spectrum, who together comprise about 20% of the public overall, have a greater impact on the political process than do those with more mixed ideological views. They are the most likely to vote, donate to campaigns and participate directly in politics.
  • Consistent conservatives [those most conservative per the study] are tightly clustered around a single news source, far more than any other group in the survey, with 47% citing Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics. They also express greater distrust than trust of 24 of the 36 news sources measured in the survey.
  • Consistent Liberals [those most liberal per the study] are more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or “defriend” someone on a social network – as well as to end a personal friendship – because of politics.

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