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Just the Facts - Fake News and How to Identify It: What is Fake News?

Be Vigilant

Fake news has recently become big news. It's nothing new but has become much more mainstream. Many people believe something they see because they agree with it, this doesn't make it real. Understand your own biases and scrutinize the information you find.

Here are some tips:

  • Slow down. Listen, watch and read closely.
  • Find out where the information is coming from - verify it in a library database.
  • Watch out for emotional appeals - these can often cloud your judgment.
  • Be weary of social media news statements - many of these are false.
  • Ask yourself "How do I know what I know?" And ask this of others

What is Fake News?

There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.

CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.

CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information

CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions

CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news

No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.)  Some articles fall under more than one category.  It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

Coordinator of Public Services, Lynn Campus

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Torrey Dukes
North Shore Community College
Lynn Campus Library
1 Ferncroft Rd
Danvers, MA 01923