You might be able to distinguish laminate from hardwood or spot a knockoff handbag when you see one, but can you tell when a news source is fake? If not, you’re not alone.
A recent study by Stanford University found that most middle-school students breeze through social media and consume news without giving much regard to the trustworthiness of the sources. These so-called “digital natives,” who have never known a world without the internet, had a difficult time discerning sponsored content and identifying false or misleading news.
Librarians are champions of not just traditional literacy (such as reading) but also information literacy, the ability to retrieve, analyze and use data effectively. It seems that now, more than ever, people are in need of these valuable skills. Distrust in the media has been a hot topic in 2016, and fake news has spread far and wide, especially on social media platforms.
So how can you identify false stories and seek out more credible sources?
First, you can authenticate the information through a fact-checking website. The library recommends the following three sites:
- PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics.
- Factcheck.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. A project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
- Snopes investigates rumors, stories and claims made on the internet and either confirms or debunks them.
You can also refer to this thorough list of tips for analyzing news sources, which was compiled by Dr. Melissa Zimdars, a professor of Communication at Merrimack College. The comprehensive guide, which is being updated on an ongoing basis, includes the red flags that indicate a source might be unreliable.
Lastly, you can use the library’s many resources to access credible information. With your library card, you can visit the Newspapers section on our Research and Reference page for trustworthy news sources or use one of our many databases to find vetted and peer-reviewed scholarly articles.
Not everything on the internet is true so the library is here to help you! Should there ever be a time when you need guidance in finding, evaluating or using information, please do not hesitate to contact the library.