We’ve all seen Facebook posts about sensational “news” stories. Some claim that aliens have landed. Others say the world’s about to end. These articles often go viral and quickly fill up our news feeds. However, users should be conscious that many are false reports. Here are a few ways to check the credibility of an online source.
Google the title of the article and see who else is writing about it
An easy way to quickly verify the credibility of an article is to plug the title or topic into the Google search bar. Then, you can see who else is talking about it. If no other articles pop up except the one you read, that article is likely fake. If several sources make the same claims, look for credible sources among them like the BBC, CNN or another recognized news sources.
See what else the author has written
Another great way to check credibility of an article is to do a search of the author’s name. These results may pull up other articles, which can help you gauge their credibility. You also might find that they’re associated with an unreliable site, like a tabloid, blog or humor site.
Research the site on which the article was originally posted
Sometimes, an article is intriguing but doesn’t seem wholly truthful. In that case, follow the link to the site where it was posted. Sometimes the “About” sections of websites will claim a political affiliation. Or, it may quickly become clear that the site is intended for humor, not for research.
Be aware of satirical news sites such as The Onion and ClickHole
These websites craft articles with relevant and intriguing titles that rope in readers. They often cover “hot” topics, like presidential campaigns, sports teams or celebrities. Often, readers don’t realize that these are fictitious articles until it’s too late. Satirical websites, like The Onion, post fictional pieces to make a statement about society. Usually, they’re very funny. However, if read without proper context, they can be quite concerning. And they’re exactly the kind of post that goes viral on Facebook.
Consult websites that debunk fraudulent viral posts
Websites like snopes.com debunk viral articles, rumors and myths. More than that, they’ll give you the correct information. By checking their latest articles, you can stay informed and stay ahead of the confusion before you see it online.
Political “fake news” abounds on all sides of the issue. And we don’t see that changing for awhile. So how can you tell if a political article is true? PolitiFact.com is a nonpartisan, Pulitzer-prize-winning website dedicated to fact-checking. You can use their Truth-O-Meter to check the credibility of political claims.
Now that you’re equipped to fact-check online articles, you can help your students do the same. Caution them about accepting everything they see on social media as the truth. Sharing these steps with your class can help them recognize the differences between credible and non-credible sources. This will also help them become better, more discerning researchers.
Text by Amy Haupt