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Help! My News is Fake!
Did your mother call you to tell you that liberals hate science? Did your Facebook feed pop up with an article on a new pesticide that's going to kill us all? Did one of your friends breathlessly tell you that President Trump was going to pardon mass shooter Dylann Roof? You might have heard any or all of these stories, but there's one thread connecting all of them: they're not true.
The ability to tell accurate news from fake news is an important skill that you'll use for the rest of your life. This research guide will give you insights on telling fact from fiction online, plus a chance to exercise your newfound skills.
Vaccine Watch: Battling Vaccine Misinformation (4:31)
Fake news and misinformation in the news
Poynter.org: What Can Journalists Do about the Unreality Crisis? (Aug. 23, 2021)
"What responsibility do journalists bear when so many Americans are misinformed? Put another way, how should a press operating in the name of factualism react when the leadership of one of the two major political parties has succumbed to the belief that blatant lies, gaslighting and fantasist arguments are the path to power?"
Harper's Magazine: [Report]: Bad News: Selling the Story of Disinformation (September 2021)
"Despite its prominence in the media, the study of disinformation is still in the process of answering definitional questions and hasn’t begun to reckon with some basic epistemological issues."
NPR: Just 12 People are Behind Most Vaccine Hoaxes on Social Media, Research Shows (May 14, 2021)
"Researchers have found just 12 people are responsible for the bulk of the misleading claims and outright lies about COVID-19 vaccines that proliferate on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter."
Aeon: The Misinformation Virus (April 16, 2021)
Lies and distortions don't just affect the ignorant. The more you know, the more vulnerable you can be to infection.
New Yorker: The Fight Against Vaccine Misinformation (March 10, 2021)
As the rollout continues, vaccine hesitancy in the UK threatens to sink efforts to reach herd immunity.
CNN: Russian disinformation campaign working to undermine confidence in Covid-19 vaccines used in US (March 8, 2021)
Online platforms directed by Russian intelligence are spreading disinformation about two of the coronavirus vaccines being used in the US.
New York Times opinion: "Don't Go Down the Rabbit Hole: Critical thinking, as we’re taught to do it, isn’t helping in the fight against misinformation" (Feb 18, 2021)
The way we’re taught from a young age to evaluate and think critically about information is fundamentally flawed and out of step with the chaos of the current internet.
NBC News: "A Boomerang Effect: Hank Aaron's Death is Falsely Linked to COVID Vaccine" (Jan. 26, 2021)
After Aaron died at 86 on Friday, some vaccine skeptics and anti-vaccination advocates latched onto the tweet to spread misinformation about the vaccine.
NYTimes: Watch Out for this Misinformation When Congress Meets to Certify the Election (Jan. 6, 2021)
President Trump and his supporters continue to spread rumors, conspiracy theories and misinformation about the vote. Here are six false voter fraud claims that may be repeated during the proceedings on Wednesday.
NiemanLab: "How to Reduce the Spread of Fake News--By Doing Nothing" (Jan. 5, 2021)
"[T]o reduce the effects of false information, people should try to reduce its visibility."
FiveThirtyEight: "Americans Were Primed To Believe The Current Onslaught Of Disinformation" (12 Nov 2020)
A number of factors may have primed the American public to seek out, believe and share disinformation since Election Day.
LA Times: Op Ed: Why can’t a generation that grew up online spot the misinformation in front of them? (Nov. 6, 2020)
There’s something deeply wrong with using advice on the internet of 20 years ago to teach students how they should interact with the internet of today. That demands 21st century skills.
Vox: Our misinformation problem is about to get much, much worse (Oct. 6, 2020)
Within minutes of President Trump announcing that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus, the internet was awash in speculation and conspiracy theories.
CNN: Doctored videos are already faking the cause of Beirut's explosion (6 Aug. 2020)
Videos are being manipulated to look like negatives, and a missile was superimposed.
APNews: Misinformation on Coronavirus is Proving Highly Contagious (July 29, 2020)
By David Klepper. As the world races to find a vaccine and a treatment for COVID-19, there is seemingly no antidote in sight for the burgeoning outbreak of coronavirus conspiracy theories, hoaxes, anti-mask myths and sham cures.
The 6 types of coronavirus misinformation to watch out for (March 27, 2020)
Six distinct types of misinformation are emerging. They follow the same infectious pattern as the virus and escalate in sequence with confirmed cases in each country, like a shadow of rumors, an outrider to events before reality hits.
Debunking Myths About How to Avoid or Cure Coronavirus (March 14, 2020)
While sharing personal advice is often well-meaning, it is important to focus on science to ensure that recommendations are based in fact.
Social media is spreading plenty of false rumors about COVID-19, especially when it comes to health and wellness suggestions.
Washington Post: The Seth Rich Conspiracy Shows How Fake News Still Works (May 20, 2017)
"The reemergence of the conspiracy theory this week, which did not lack for real news, revealed plenty about the fake news ecosystem (or to use BuzzFeed's useful phrase, “the upside-down media”) in the Trump era."
Vice.com: Can Librarians Save Us From Fake News? (Mar 21, 2017)
Arielle Dollinger's article outlines what librarians do to help teach about fake news and misinformation. Contains good links to other resources.
Chronicle of Higher Education: Competing Facts are Facts of Life (Mar 8, 2017)
Rob Jenkins argues that in a debate, one camp rarely has all the facts on its side, and although we use "fact" and "truth" synonymously, they aren't the same thing.
NPR: A Finder's Guide to Facts (Dec 11, 2016)
This article discusses "post-truth", the idea that all news outlets will fail you eventually and it's impossible to know who to trust. It provides some commonsense advice on what to look for in a news outlet.
CNN: Fake News, Real Violence (Dec 5, 2016)
"Pizzagate" was a fake news story which connected a pizzeria with a child pornography ring allegedly run by Hillary Clinton and John Podesta. On Sunday, December 3, 2016, an armed shooter entered the pizzeria and fired a shot before being accosted by the police.
ABCNews: When Fake News Makes Real News Headlines (Nov 29, 2016)
About a fake story which was treated as real news. Traces some of the pipeline for developing and distributing fake news
New York Times: How Fake News Goes Viral (Nov 20, 2016)
From a single Tweeter with 35 friends to being shared over 400,000 times through various forums, this article traces a Tweet made November 9th, 2016.
NPR: We Tracked Down a Fake-News Creator (Nov 23, 2016)
About Jestin Coler, who began creating and distributing fake news in 2013.
The Atlantic: The Food Babe, Enemy of Chemicals (Feb 11, 2015)
An examination of claims made by The Food Babe, with pointed analysis by professor Kevin Folta of the University of Florida
How to Combat Fake News: Advice from Top Journalists (3:09)
What Is the Problem?
Why should you care about whether your news is real or fake?
- You deserve the truth. You are smart enough to make up your own mind - as long as you have the real facts in front of you. You have every right to be insulted when you are presented with fake news, because you are in essence being treated like an idiot.
- Fake news destroys your credibility. If your arguments are built on bad information, it will be much more difficult for people to believe you now and in the future.
- Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people. Purveyors of fake and misleading medical advice like Mercola.com and NaturalNews.com help perpetuate myths like HIV and AIDS aren't related, or that vaccines cause autism. These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.
- Real news can benefit you. If you want to buy stock in a company, you want to read accurate articles about that company so you can invest wisely. If you are planning on voting in an election, you want to read as much good information on a candidate so you can vote for the person who best represents your ideas and beliefs. Fake news will not help you make money or make the world a better place, but real news can.
What Makes Real News Real?
Fake News and Misinformation Will Get Worse (2019)
Credits and Thank Yous
Thank you to our colleagues at Indiana University East for Creative Commons licensing their guide, on which we've based ours.
Please feel free to share this guide with others. If you are a librarian, you are welcome to use this guide and its contents for your own purposes.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.