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Fake News: How to be a Responsible Information Consumer: Home

Can't tell the difference between real and unreliable news? Check out these resources.

About this Guide

Have you heard the latest?  Morgan Freeman told people to stop taking COVID tests!  McDonalds is charging Caucasian customers a $1.50 service fee!  The National Health Service said that the COVID-19 vaccine causes Bell's palsy!

These are all attention-grabbing stories.  Unfortunately, they are also all fake.  The ability to discern accurate news from fake news is an important skill that you will use throughout your life.  This LibGuide will provide you with valuable information that you can use to evaluate online media.

What is "Fake?"

How False News Can Spread

Types of 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.  Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not.   It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

Fight Fake News

Be a responsible information consumer.  Here are 6 ways you can evaluate and engage:

1. Think before you share. Read the entire piece, not just the headline, before you decide whether or not to share.

2. Verify an unlikely story.  Check to see if other reliable news sources are reporting the same story.  Snopes and Politifact can also be useful in determining the veracity of a claim or story.

3. Install a browser extension that identifies stories from sites that produce clickbait, fake news, and other suspect stories.

4. Help debunk fake news.

5. Rethink your news diet. Expand your information network to include diverse perspectives from quality sources.

6. Think critically about your sources.  Remember that:

  • Independent sources are preferable to self-interested sources.
  • Multiple sources are preferable to a report based on a single source.
  • Sources who verify or provide verifiable information are preferable to those who merely assert.
  • Authoritative and/or informed sources are preferable to sources who are uninformed or lack authoritative background.
  • Named sources are better than anonymous ones.

Reference Librarian

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Lindsay Boezi
MacPhaidin Library 111C

Check the Site

Not sure if the website you're on is reliable?  Start here:

Washington Post Article


Indiana University East Campus Library. (2017). What kinds of fake news exist? Retrieved from

Indiana University East Campus Library. (2017). What makes a news story fake [Graphic]. Retrieved from

Ted-Ed (2015). How false news can spread. Retrieved from

Vaandering, A. (2017). Combat fake news. Retrieved from

William H. Hannon Library. (2017). Fight fake news. Retrieved from

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