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How to Spot Fake News: Sharing on Social Media

This guide provides information and tips on examining news critically, including how to spot fake news and how to fact check and evaluate sources.

What's wrong with fake news?

Why should you care whether your news is real or fake?

  1. 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 read fake news, because you are in essence being treated like an idiot.
  2. Fake news destroys your credibility.  If your arguments are built on bad information, it will be much more difficult for people to believe you in the future.
  3. Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people.  Purveyors of fake and misleading medical advice like and 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.
  4. 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.

From East Indiana University Libraries

Look Out For These!

Click-bait - something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink, especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.



Hoax - 1. an act intended to trick or dupe 2. something accepted or established by fraud or fabrication.

In 2012, members of the group 4chan hacked into several prominent Twitter accounts, reporting pop superstar Justin Bieber had been diagnosed with cancer. False reports of fans shaving their heads in support of Bieber compounded the effect of the hoax.

Parody - An imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.

Propaganda - 1.  The spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person. 2.  Ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause.



Post-truth - Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. Source: Oxford Dictionary

Satire - The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Did You Know?

Social media has become a dominant source for Americans to consume their news.  According to a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2016, 62% of adults in the United States get their news from social media platforms, up from 49% in 2012. 

People may prefer news on social media because of its mass appeal, including:

  • Wide and general audience
  • Immediacy 
  • Viral nature
  • Creates a dialogue through use of comment features

News through social media can be extremely vulnerable, as it is open to all, and users set their own boundaries. People can also post anonymously or through false channels.

So why is there fake news out there?  Mostly to make money, of course!  Cam Harris, a Davidson College graduate, made thousands of dollars with his fake news stories during the presidential election.  Check out the article here.

So before you share something on Facebook or re-tweet on Twitter, check your source.  Click on the Evaluating Sources tab to find out how.