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Fact Checking, Verification & Fake News

Fake News Information & Resources

Fake news is information posing as news, which has not been verified and is not true. It could be clickbait, rumours, hoaxes, propaganda, or satire. Today fake news is overwhelmingly web-driven, but fake news is nothing new

Check out this explainer on Fake News and the Spread of Disinformation from Journalist's Resource, from the Harvard Shorenstein Center on Media Politics and Public Policy.

Timeline of Key moments in the latest fake news debate from Claire Wardle at FirstDraftNewsFirstDraftNews works with its media partners to improve online news verification, reporting and sharing.

2016's top fake news stories were collected by C|net from the fact-checking sites SnopesFactcheck,org and Politifact.

Who's reading fake news? According to the Jumpshot Tech Blog:

  • Facebook referrals accounted for 50 percent of total traffic to fake news sites and 20 percent of total traffic to reputable news sites.
  • The oldest age group analyzed, 65 and over, was the most likely to click on fake and hyperpartisan news.
  • Millennials are 16 percent less likely to click on fake news from Facebook compared to the rest of the population.

Data on Facebook’s fake news problem, The Jumpshot Tech Blog, Nov. 29, 2016

Confirmation Bias: "subconscious tendency to seek and interpret information and other evidence in ways that affirm our existing beliefs, ideas, expectations, and/or hypotheses. Therefore, confirmation bias is both affected by and feeds our implicit biases. It can be most entrenched around beliefs and ideas that we are strongly attached to or that provoke a strong emotional response." Source: Facing History and Ourselves (This is a link to a lesson plan).

Who Me? Biased? A Video Series from The New York Times.

Twenty Ways to Cultivate an Open Mind 

from Overcoming Bias: A Journalist’s Guide to Culture & Context by Sue Ellen Christian


Washington Post's Fact Checker

Univision’s Detector de Mentiras (Lie Detector)

AP Fact Check


NPR Politics Fact Check

Duke Reporters' Lab Global Fact-Checking Sites

SciCheck’s SciCheck feature focuses exclusively on false and misleading scientific claims that are made by partisans to influence public policy.

FlackCheck political literacy companion site to the award-winning The site provides resources designed to help viewers recognize flaws in arguments in general and political ads in particular. Video resources point out deception and incivility in political rhetoric.

SourceWatch (Center for Media and Democracy) profiles the activities of front groups, PR spinners, industry-friendly experts, industry-funded organizations, and think tanks trying to manipulate public opinion on behalf of corporations or government.

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Checklists & Lesson Plans to Help Identify Fake News

Newmark J-School's Fake News Detection Checklist

Don’t be fooled by fake news, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who says?
    • Scrutinize the publication sharing the story, and the sources they are quoting. Are they even giving a source? Go to original source.
  • How do they know? What makes them an authoritative source?
    • Search the website’s “About” page.
    • Check the Center for Media & Democracy’s page.
  • Is the source biased?  
    • Does the story only present one side of a debate?
    • Check (debunks conservative media) and (debunks liberal media).
  • Does this news turn up on any trusted sites?
    • Search fact-checking sites like to see of the claim has been proven or debunked.
    • Here’s a custom search engine of fact-checking sites, which you can search all at once:
    • Search reliable news sources to see what they are reporting on the issue or topic. 
  • Do a Google search to see whether or how the news is being reported on legitimate journalism sites (but be wary of mistaking quantity for quality – fake news tends to proliferate).
  • Do a Google Scholar search to see what scholars and researchers say about this claim.
  • What don't I know?
    • Do other reliable sources challenge these facts?
    • What other facts are being left out?
  • Is this story making me upset or angry?
    • If so, it's probably designed to target your emotions and confirmation biases, and to bypass your intellect. Take a breath and verify before you share it.
  • Does the story sound too crazy or outlandish to be true?
  • Then don't believe it, unless you've checked it out first with other, reliable sources.

Ten Questions for Fake News Detection from The News Literacy Project's Checkology Virtual Classroom

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Changing Behavior Through Education

We can empower students and readers through education/advocacy about the need for truth in politics, and the efforts to use fake news to destabilizer our democracy, so that they change the way they engage with news, and take steps to verify what they read and share:

From Towards a Post-Lies Future: Fighting "Alternative Facts" and "Post-Truth" Politics  by Gleb Tsipursky in The Humanist.

Since ancient Greece, truth in politics has been vital for a democracy to function properly. Citizens need to care about and know the reality of political affairs, at least in broad terms, to make wise decisions regarding which politicians and policies to support. Otherwise, what reason do politicians have to care about serving the true interests of the citizenry? They can simply use emotional manipulation and lies to procure and stay in power, paving the way for corruption and authoritarianism

Indeed, truth in politics is a common good just like clean air and water, and the pollution of truth will devastate our political system just as environmental pollution devastates our planet and our physical health. Fortunately, we can learn from the successes of the environmental movement. It started with small groups of motivated and informed people engaging in sustained education and advocacy. As a result of these efforts, regular citizens increasingly changed their everyday behavior through recycling, repurposing, and composting, while politicians passed pro-environmental legislation such as the Clean Air Act

The protruth movement will require early advocates to act from the same kind of marginalized political position as early environmental activists, fighting both against the political status quo and the tendency of our brains toward lazy thinking.

The Filter Bubble is Eli Pariser's theory that personalization on websites and social media we use, creates a filter bubble sending us only information, news and suggestions that confirm our views and likes, and distancing us from other information.

The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think, by Eli Pariser

Tools to pop your filter bubble from The Simple Psychological Trick to Political Persuasion, The Atlantic:

  • Hi From the Other Side will introduce you to someone who voted for the candidate you voted against in the federal election. Simply fill out a questionnaire and the organization will pair you with someone with whom you can “engage in civil conversation.” The goal, says the website, is “not to convince, but to understand.”
  • Escape Your Bubble will also help you understand the other side. It’s a Chrome plugin that injects informative articles into your Facebook feed, meant to highlight issues you might not think about.
  • The Echo Chamber Club handpicks articles to challenge liberal viewpoints, and sends them out in an email newsletter.
  • Allsides is a news organization that views all journalists as inherently biased. “In journalism school, they teach you how to report in an unbiased manner, and some journalists do a pretty good job of that,” CEO John Gable told Forbes shortly after the website launched in 2012. “But frankly, we think that’s bullshit. We don’t think it’s possible to be unbiased.” Allsides gathers contrasting viewpoints on the news of the day, spanning the political spectrum.

Additional resources:

4 ways to burst the ‘filter bubble’ isolating you from different viewpoints

How can Facebook and its users burst the ‘filter bubble’?

How to improve your Facebook feed, so we see the next Trump coming

12 Ways to Break Your Filter Bubble and Gain Diverse Perspectives


The Facebook Journalism Project

To fight fake news, Facebook will be "collaborating with news organizations to develop products, learning from journalists about ways we can be a better partner, and working with publishers and educators on how we can equip people with the knowledge they need to be informed readers in the digital age."

Eli Pariser, the co-founder of Upworthy and author of The Filter Bubble has created a Google Doc to crowdsource Design Solutions for Fake News.

BS Detector Chrome Extension

FirstDraft NewsCheck Chrome Extension


The News Integrity Initiative 

The News Integrity Initiative at the CUNY J-School is a $14 million fund supporting efforts to connect journalists, technologists, academic institutions, non-profits, and other organizations from around the world to foster informed and engaged communities, combat media manipulation, and support inclusive, constructive, and respectful civic discourse.

The fund is seeded with grants from a coalition of partners, which currently include Facebook, Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, Ford Foundation, AppNexus, Knight Foundation, Tow Foundation, Betaworks, Mozilla, and Democracy Fund.

crowdsourced set of materials on “alternative news” from the Oxford Institute: “Alternative Facts”: how do you cover  powerful people who lie? Thanks to Professor Jeff Jarvis for sharing this resource.

From ‘Fake news’: the best thing that’s happened to journalism Charlie Beck, London School of Economics

Journalists should:

  • Connect – be accessible and present on all platforms
  • Curate – help users to good content where ever it is
  • Be relevant – use users’ language and ‘listen’ creatively with data
  • Be expert – add value, insight, experience, context
  • Be truthful – fact checking, balance, accuracy
  • Be human – show empathy, diversity, constructive
  • Transparency – show sources, be accountable, allow criticism

The networks and other organizations that distribute news should:

Filter out fake news better

  • Give the user better signals of the quality of content
  • Promote better content through algorithms
  • Promote news literacy
  • Ensure more resource and reward goes to credible producers and publishers

Other authorities (government, business, education) should:

  • Communicate where the public communicate
  • Talk the right languages: conversational, human, even humorous
  • Be relevant
  • Open up
  • Be interactive
  • Be realistic – media has limited influence

Keep Fact-checking!

Fact-checking doesn’t ‘backfire,’ new study suggests,

  • Porter and Wood showed 8,100 subjects corrections to claims made by political figures on 36 different topics. Only on one of the 36 issues (the misperception that WMD were found in Iraq) did they detect a backfire effect.
  • But we have definitely not found any consistent evidence of factual backfire despite months of work on thousands of subjects. By and large, folks across the political spectrum were happy to move, at least some of the way, consistently with a factual intervention.

Here's a link to the new study referenced in the above article: The Elusive Backfire Effect: Mass Attitudes' Steadfast Factual Adherence, Aug. 5, 2016 by Thomas Wood, Ohio State University & Ethan Porter, University of Chicago; George Washington University

More info on Fact Checking:

API’s Fact-Checking Project findings: summarized in How to Fight Fake News and Misinformation? Research Helps Point the Way, MediaShift

  • The public has a positive view of fact-checking, although Republicans, as well as people who are less informed, educated and politically knowledgeable, view the format less favorably. Fact-checks generally help people become better informed and knowledgeable about the issues under discussion.
  • Fact-checking — even a single correction — can substantially reduce misperceptions, even in the long-term.
  • Tweets correcting falsehoods or retweets of those corrections are “completely swamped by the tweets making or repeating the claim,” although the amount of misinformation decreases over time. Sentiment toward fact-checking on Twitter is largely positive, and the targets of fact-checking are seen in a mostly negative light.

Show Your Work - Be Transparent!

David Haglund referred to the Serial podcast as “show-your-work journalism.”  The reporting in that popular podcast ultimately resulted in a new criminal trial.

Showing your work, and being transparent about your reporting process is a tool to establish authenticity, and encourage discovery and engagement, according to Josh Stearns of the Democracy Fund Designing Journalism for Discovery and Engagement & Why Journalists Should Use Transparency as a Tool to Deepen Engagement.

One example of show-your-work journalism is this video Inside Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold's investigation of Donald Trump's charitable giving


Focus on Policy, Rather Than Antics!

"The candidates’ controversies received more coverage, on average, than their views on the economy. From June until Election Day, 38 percent of the stories mentioned Mr. Trump’s various missteps, and 35 percent mentioned Mrs. Clinton’s email. Only 17 percent mentioned Mr. Trump and jobs or the economy, and only 10 percent cited Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and the economy." Why This Election Was Not About the Issues, by Lynn Vavreck for The UpShot. Vavreck is a professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a co-author of “The Gamble,” about the 2012 presidential campaign.

"As any veteran of politics will tell you, we must watch what leaders do more than what they say. It is vital that the press mind the cookie jar. We need journalists to watch for public malfeasance, stealing, corruption, law breaking, private enrichment, rewarding friends, and abuse of power...Abuse of power is not a partisan or ideological issue. It is a moral one—and one citizens in both parties care about. But to keep their eye on that prize, the press needs to not be diverted by the magician’s patter." What the post-Trump debate over journalism gets wrong, We don’t need journalists to hold fast or change everything, but a little of both, Tom Rosenthiel

"According to Emily Thorson, a political scientist at Boston College, there is one area where people will change their minds when faced with the facts: policy, particularly when it isn’t perceived to be partisan. By covering policies rather than candidates’ antics, the press may be able to persuade with facts after all.

"'There is a tendency to blame voters, but it’s really hard to find [policy] information. It’s hard to figure out what the candidates’ policies would actually mean for your life because the media spent so much time on horse-race coverage, what they did or didn’t say, or whether they were lying,' Thorson said. 'Academics have been saying this about journalism for a long time, but I think it was especially magnified in this campaign.'" Fact-Checking Won’t Save Us From Fake News, Brooke Borel, Author of The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking, FiveThirtyEight

Call Out Lies and Bigotry!

The challenge for reporters, is that when they call out untruths, “it gives the appearance of supporting one side of the hyper-politicized debate. But it’s not support—it’s journalism.” “We need journalists to be able to say, sometimes: ‘You believe that, but it’s not true...But having a press that can do that is really hard. It requires not only journalists willing to defy powerful actors, willing to risk being called one-sided, willing to discomfort their audience, but also readers, viewers, listeners who are willing to listen to that.” Jay Rosen professor of journalism at New York University, cited in Post-Truth Politics, Nieman Reports.

"Responsible journalists should simply state to their audience that they have decided that to be anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, etc. is an acceptable form of bias, much as journalists of times past eventually decided it was unnecessary and abhorrent to get a quote from someone to defend lynching when writing a story about these horrific crimes."  What Journalism Needs To Do Post-Election, Carrie Brown-Smith, Social journalism director at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Check the links below:

Latest research on fake news and the spread of misinformation - from Journalist's Resource from Harvard Shorenstein Center

Real news about fake news - from NiemanLab

Community Engagement & Social Journalism

According to Carrie Brown-Smith, Social journalism director at Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY: Social journalism is about finding new ways to serve communities. To recast journalism as a service that helps communities meet their goals and solve problems.Listening to a community: understanding and empathizing with its needs and learning how to help a community share its own knowledge. 

Here's Carrie's list of Best Resources on Community Engagement and Social Journalism.

According to Jennifer Preston, Vice President for Journalism, Knight Foundation: "Quality journalism is a buttress against the torrent of fake news we've seen explode in the past year, and it can help rebuild the diminishing trust many people have in society's core institutions...At Knight, we are supporting projects to help journalists and news organizations build trust with their audience by engaging more directly with community residents."  5 Questions For...Philanthropy News Digest

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