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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.
Misinformation, The Media, and the Role You're Playing in Both (15:01)
Fake news and misinformation in the news
Grid: Behind the lie of 87,000 armed agents: How an obscure factoid was bent into a popular GOP talking point (Aug. 22, 2022)
"Even as warnings of violence have multiplied and fact-checkers debunked their claims, GOP lawmakers and right-wing outlets have doubled down on their strategy, further amplifying and embellishing their original misleading claims."
The Conversation: Buying Into Conspiracy Theories Can Be Exciting--That's What Makes Them Dangerous (July 5, 2022)
"[An]yone who talks to conspiracy theorists knows that they’re never short on details, or at least 'alternative facts.' They have plenty of information, but they insist that it be interpreted in a particular way – the way that feels most exciting."
Washington Post: Beware Partisan 'Pink Slime' Sites that Pose as Local News (June 5, 2022)
"While fact-based, accountable local newspapers are struggling to survive — many of them facing budget cuts or closure — what’s known as “pink slime” sites are sneakily trying to fill the void. They traffic in falsehood and exaggeration, paid for by political groups, especially on the right."
Esquire: Tiffany Dover Was Never Dead (April 18, 2022)
"Zadrozny, who has been covering conspiracy theories and, in particular, the anti-vaccination movement, for nearly a decade, documents not just how the lie spreads, but what happens when the people who spread it are faced with the truth."
CNN: Why Ukraine War Misinformation is So Hard to Police (March 15, 2022)
Misinformation experts say there are key differences between the war in Ukraine and other misinformation events that make false claims about the conflict especially insidious and difficult to counter.
PolitiFact: "What Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Russia video can teach us all about talking to the misinformed" (March 21, 2022)
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent video to the people of Russia in the war in Ukraine was a master class in how to get people to reconsider their views. We can all learn from it.
NewsGuard: "WarTok: TikTok is feeding war disinformation to new users within minutes — even if they don’t search for Ukraine-related content" (March 2022)
NewsGuard’s findings add to the body of evidence that TikTok’s lack of effective content labeling and moderation, coupled with its skill at pushing users to content that keeps them on the app, have made the platform fertile ground for the spread of disinformation.
Technology Now: "How to Avoid Sharing Bad Information About Russia's Invasion of Ukraine" (Feb. 25, 2022)
Harmful propaganda and misinformation are often inadvertently amplified as people face the fire hose of breaking news and interact with viral posts about a terrible event. This guide is for those who want to avoid helping bad actors.
NBC: War in Ukraine Sparks New Wave of Misinformation (Feb. 25, 2022)
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has already fueled some nascent misinformation tactics, including the spread of realistic video game footage and the use of TikTok to create fake war zone livestreams.
Politico: We Found the One Group of Americans Who Are Most Likely to Spread Fake News (Jan. 14, 2022)
One subset of conservatives expressed the greatest tendency to promote false news stories. Here’s what it means for the fight against misinformation.
Slate: How to Save People From Drowning in a Sea of Misinformation (Dec. 15, 2021)
As we grope for solutions to address the spread of disinformation, we need to consider not just the supply, but also demand. Stopping disinformation will also require a more refined understanding of who consumes it and why.
New York Times: Birds Aren't Real, or Are They? Inside a Gen Z Conspiracy Theory (Dec. 9, 2021)
“Yes, we have been intentionally spreading misinformation for the past four years, but it’s with a purpose. It’s about holding up a mirror to America in the internet age.”
CNN Business: "Nearly 80% of Americans have been exposed to Covid misinfo, and many don't know what to believe, survey says." (Nov. 9, 2021)
Kaiser, which is widely respected for its top-notch work on this subject, tested eight false statements about Covid. Nearly 80% of Americans surveyed said they had heard of at least one of the falsehoods and either believed it or are unsure whether it is true.
CNN (Opinion): How to disrupt America's history of rebranding misinformation as 'science' (Sept. 28, 2021)
"Two features of modern American life seem most to blame for the angry distrust and intractable division that surround us: the dissemination machine of social media and the rejection of fact-based sources of information by many on the right, particularly among politicians and media."
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.
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.