Spotting a “fake”


I rarely say, “what happened to the good old days?”, because I do firmly believe these are the best of days.  However, in the field of information and access to information, I do long for the days when I used a book, an encyclopedia, a textbook, a magazine and/or Walter Cronkite to get information which I could be confident was accurate.  The present day allows access to information resources 24/7 most of which are not vetted for accuracy.

Fake news has been around since of the invention of the printing press.  These stories are always sensationalized, use people’s prejudices and often incite violence.  The late 1800’s and early 1900’s saw newspapers use ‘yellow journalism’ to sell papers.  It was not until the 20th century that news reporting took on a professional and ethical cloak.  Is that being threatened now by free internet pseudo news outlets?  Yes; it is!! This can be attributed to how easy and fast news can travel via the Internet.  It is disturbing to see how eagerly people accept these fabrications without question.  news-1729539_1920

So what is the role of education to arm students with the tools they need to spot a fake?  “Digital literacy is the ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use and create information.”  The key verb is ‘evaluate’.  According to a study from Stanford University, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning” ‘student’s ability to reason about the information on the internet can be summed up in one word: bleak.’

What can educators do?  Teaching evaluation skills usually is a one class/year event.  

The good news is that teaching students to evaluate content isn’t all that hard to do.  

Have students Ask these questions when reading non-fiction content:

  1. How believable is this story to me?  
  2. What do I know about this news source?
  3. Can I spot any loaded words in the piece I am reading?

Here are some tips on how to spot ‘fake news’:

  1. Stay away from sites with suspicious-looking web addresses, like those ending in .lo or
  2. Pay attention to the article’s author. If there’s no byline on a story, or there is only one author for every post on the entire website, watch out. It may be an imposter.
  3. Check if there’s an “about me” section on the website. This makes it easier to spot whether the news source is legitimate.
  4. Get your news from a variety of places. The best way to ensure that you’re not scammed by fake news is to read from a diverse array of news sources, and not just what pops up on a Facebook feed.

Resources for teaching “Evaluating the Internet”.  


Critical Evaluation by Kathy Schrock

The Advanced Google Searches Every Student Should Know by Alan November



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s