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Fact Check: How to decipher online news and information: Identifying Fake News

Types Misinformation


Organizations or sponsors (political, religious, etc) make the message they are sharing look like it is from a grassroots organization and supported by people in the community where they are targeting the messages.


News is delivered from a particular point of view that may rely on propaganda and opinions rather than facts.


Links use sensationalized, misleading, or exaggerated headlines and images to get individuals to visit their website.  The articles then deliver information that is not related to the original eye-catching piece.  


This is a genuine mistake made by a reporting agency. Once the error is found, reputable agencies will retract the story and publish an apology if necessary

Native advertising/Sponsored Content

Native advertisements are designed to look like additional stories but are advertisements for sponsors. Readers mistake their links as legitimate news to get more traffic to their site. 


Appeals to emotions and used to manage attitudes towards a government or corporation. This type of information can be both beneficial and harmful


News sites parody actual events and news and are for entertainment purposes only.  They often mimic reputable news sites, using exaggerated information out of context. 

Types of Disinformation

Conspiracy theories

Fictional claims that reject experts and authorities. Claims cannot be falsified, any evidence that refutes the theory is considered additional support for the conspiracy


Social media accounts purporting to be a certain person but are, in fact, run by others with no connection to that individual.

Doctored content

Content within a document has been modified or altered. This can include statistics, graphs, photographs, and videos.


Websites have made up stories or hoaxes that are delivered under the pretext of being factual news.  

False attribution

Genuine images, videos, or quotes are knowingly attributed to the wrong person or event.


News stories share quotes or information without providing proper background or context, which can often completely reverse the intended message.


Often contradicts experts with no evidence to support their claims. Misrepresent real scientific studies with exaggerated or false claims

How to spot fake news

Ways to spot fake news infographic

Text alternative to How to Spot Fake News Infographic.

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. (2020). How to spot fake news [Infographic].

IFLA, CC BY 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons 

Questions to ask yourself to identify fake news

Does the story match the headline?   

Sensational headlines are created to get the reader's attention. They often contain excessive punctuation, such as exclamation points, and use all caps. Sometimes they allude to a secret you need to know now. Keep reading! If the story strays away from the headline, it is probably clickbait. Clickbait is used to pass biased or fake news to unsuspecting readers.    

What is the date of the story?  

Some deceptive sites take stories or pictures from a few years ago and revamp them to fit in a headline with today's date. There are resources in this guide to help you verify images to find when they first appeared on the internet.   

Is the story unbelievable?  

If it's so incredible that you cannot believe it, you shouldn't.  Alternatively, if it confirms your worst nightmare, you should research it deeper to find supporting or contradictory evidence.    

Who else is reporting this story?  

 If no other media outlets are reporting the same story, it may not be true. Look for supporting evidence and links to reputable news outlets.    

Who is reporting this story?   

Are they a reputable news agency? Look up the author to see what and where they have reported before. Check the website's About page. Be careful of sites that do not provide information on who they are or how to contact them. Reputable sites will have their contact information readily available that should match the domain, not a Yahoo or Gmail address. All media is vulnerable to mistaken facts and news.  However, reputable news sources take accountability for their stories.  Biased and fake news outlets often do not take the same steps toward accountability, even going as far as giving fake contact information  

How did you find this story?  

Is it from your over-sharing aunt on social media? Did it come across your newsfeed? Is it a meme? Many people who share stories on social media do not read past the headline. Reputable news outlets will not share newsworthy stories in a meme. Look the story up elsewhere to see if anyone is reporting on it and what they are saying. If it is a link to a website, check out the URL. Some fake websites create fake websites that look like other news agencies. Look for inconsistencies in the URL, such as spelling errors.   

Does the article make statements without any supporting evidence?  

 You should always be able to see where the information in the story came from, such as links to original articles and named sources. Look to see if they are trying to prove or disprove something based on only one encompassing fact and treat it as a warning sign. You should also look up the report on a fact-checking site, such as Snopes or  

Does the article show opposing viewpoints?  

Did the author take steps to get any information to tell the other side of the story?  This demonstrates their credibility and transparency in bringing you the whole story. Search other media outlets to see what they are saying about this story.     


Knowledge check

Text alternative to How to Spot Fake News infographic

How to Spot Fake News

Consider the source

Click away from the story to investigate the site, its mission, and its contact info.

Read beyond

Headlines can be outrageous in an effort to get clicks. What’s the whole story?

Check the author

Do a quick search on the author. Are they credible? Are they real?

Supporting sources?

Click on those links. Determine if the info given actually supports the story.

Check the date

Reposting old news stories doesn’t mean they’re relevant to current events.

Is it a joke?

If it is too outlandish, it might be satire. Research the site and author to be sure.

Check your biases

Consider if your own beliefs could affect your judgment.

Ask the experts

Ask a librarian, or consult a fact-checking site.


International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions 

IFLA, CC BY 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons