Fact or fiction: Quick tips to help identify “fake news”

The term “fake news” describes any type of news story created to intentionally mislead audiences, often for political or financial gain. Fake news has become a popular topic in recent years and is now seen as one of the biggest threats to our democracy.

While an outrageously false story published in a niche publication may have only reached a minimal number of readers in the past, a fake news story today can be published online and can reach tens of thousands of users by sharing it on social media.

So, how can you tell if something is real or not? Here are some strategies to identify fake news stories online. Spoiler alert: It’s not always as easy as it sounds.

Verify stories with other sources

If you come across a less than truthful news story the best way to validate it is to corroborate the story with other sources. If the story is also being covered by prominent news sources, then it is likely legitimate. On the other hand, if few or no other websites cover the story, it may not be legitimate.

Investigate the original source of the news

Most news reports cite their information from a direct source. So, if you’re skeptical about something you read in a story, investigate the original source to see how your understanding of the source matches how the media did their reporting.

Check the domain name

A simple way to check if a website is legitimate is to look at the domain name. Untrustworthy websites may use a similar URL as a popular news site to trick you. Sometimes this is by omitting a letter or two, or misspelling the name completely.

Fake news websites are becoming more adept at dressing up their content to appear legitimate. But if you read a story and are willing to hit “pause” before hitting “share,” you’re likely on the right track to discerning fact from fiction.

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