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FFL100 - Pothier-Hill

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

Critical Thinking

Deciding what to believe in today's complex information landscape takes critical thinking, soul-searching, and unbiased fact-checking. Consider asking yourself whether you believe that a news source is accurate because:

  • you agree with it
  • it agrees with what you've seen in other sources
  • it looks and sounds like a professional new piece
  • it's from a source you're familiar with

In fact, none of these are criteria for evaluation. Critical thinking requires stepping outside your comfort zone and asking yourself "how do I know what I know?" It also requires asking the same of the sources you choose to use. Where does your information come from? 

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.

What Makes It Fake?

what makes a news story fake

Evaluating Sources

APPLY Your Critical Thinking Skills

A – authority: Who is the author or creator? What are their credentials or experience in this area? Have they written other articles or books? Does the author/creator have an agenda beyond education or information?​


P- purpose/point of view: Is this source complete and accurate or does it leave out or misrepresent information? Are diverse perspectives represented? What evidence is presented of conclusions? Who is the intended audience?  Is the content relevant to your information needs? ​


P- publisher: Does the publisher have an agenda? Is the publisher scholarly? Commercial? Nonprofit? Government? Educational?​


L – list of resources: Does the source have a reference list or refer to other sources? How else can you verify the information in this source? ​


Y- year of publication: Is this source current and relevant? Can you find more current or relevant information? Is the cited information current or based on outdated research or statistics? ​Is this information routinely updated?

Checking the Facts

International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles


The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) at Poynter is committed to promoting excellence in fact-checking. We believe nonpartisan and transparent fact-checking can be a powerful instrument of accountability journalism; conversely, unsourced or biased fact-checking can increase distrust in the media and experts while polluting public understanding.

The code of principles is for organizations that regularly publish nonpartisan reports on the accuracy of statements by public figures, major institutions, and other widely circulated claims of interest to society. It is the result of consultations among fact-checkers from around the world and offers conscientious practitioners principles to aspire to in their everyday work.

    We fact-check claims using the same standard for every fact check. We do not concentrate our fact-checking on any one side. We follow the same process for every fact check and let the evidence dictate our conclusions. We do not advocate or take policy positions on the issues we fact-check.
    We want our readers to be able to verify our findings themselves. We provide all sources in enough detail that readers can replicate our work, except in cases where a source’s personal security could be compromised. In such cases, we provide as much detail as possible.
    We are transparent about our funding sources. If we accept funding from other organizations, we ensure that funders have no influence over the conclusions we reach in our reports. We detail the professional background of all key figures in our organization and explain our organizational structure and legal status. We clearly indicate a way for readers to communicate with us.
    We explain the methodology we use to select, research, write, edit, publish and correct our fact checks. We encourage readers to send us claims to fact-check and are transparent on why and how we fact-check.
    We publish our corrections policy and follow it scrupulously. We correct clearly and transparently in line with our corrections policy, seeking so far as possible to ensure that readers see the corrected version.

Some of the agencies who adhere to this code are listed below:

Understand Your Online Surroundings