10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Story


The Story Makes You Angry

Many false news stories purposely play on our fears and anxieties. Andres Ruffo/EyeEm/Getty Images
Many false news stories purposely play on our fears and anxieties. Andres Ruffo/EyeEm/Getty Images

Ever read a story that really made you mad? Or that seemed to tap into your innermost insecurity or fear? Maybe it was about the government secretly spying on you. Don't automatically believe what you just read and pass it on. Many false news stories purposely play on our fears and anxieties, knowing that doing so will make people follow their emotions and not their brains.

One example of such a story concerned a Texas family of five diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus. Because of the family's diagnosis, the story said, the entire town where they lived was under quarantine. The fake story, published on a site called National Report during the height of the Ebola crisis, took off on Facebook, where hundreds of thousands of people read it, "liked" it and passed it on [source: Dzieza]. Whether these are satirical sites or websites run by people with an ax to grind, if you find yourself getting pretty steamed, take a step back and re-evaluate.

Author's Note: 10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Story

I can appreciate good satire, such as that found in The Onion. But it's a disservice — and sometimes an outright danger — to trick people into believing false information on serious subjects.

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  • Bilton, Ricardo. "Thanks to social media, fake news draws real audiences." Digiday. Oct. 24, 2014. (Aug. 25, 2015) http://digiday.com/publishers/fake-news-site-national-report-public-service/
  • Dzieza, Josh. "Fake news sites are using Facebook to spread Ebola panic." The Verge. Oct. 22, 2014. (Aug. 28, 2015) http://www.theverge.com/2014/10/22/7028983/fake-news-sites-are-using-facebook-to-spread-ebola-panic
  • Gallagher, Danny. "7 Clearly Fake News Stories That Fooled The Mainstream Media." Cracked. May 9, 2009. (Aug. 25, 2015) http://www.cracked.com/article_17318_7-clearly-fake-news-stories-that-fooled-mainstream-media.html
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  • Nijhuis, Michelle. "How to Not Publish Baloney." Slate. April 30, 2014. (Aug. 25, 2015) http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/04/how_to_identify_fake_news_stories_bs_detector_and_prevention_protocol.html
  • Smietana, Bob. "5 Tips for Spotting Fake News." Christianity Today. July 17, 2015. (Aug. 25, 2015) http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/july-web-only/5-tips-for-spotting-fake-news.html
  • The Onion. "About The Onion." (Aug. 25, 2015) http://www.theonion.com/about/
  • The Stately Harold. (Aug. 28, 2015) http://www.thestatelyharold.com/
  • Toussaint, Kristin. "Presidential Candidates Mocked By Fake Domain Names." Boston. May 4, 2015. (Aug. 28, 2015) http://www.boston.com/news/nation/2015/05/04/presidential-candidates-mocked-fake-domain-names/JFZysmtzU5cAYVwZgi75oK/story.html
  • Turley, Jonathan. "Swatting Hoax: National Report Publishes Another False Story." Jonathan Turley. Sept. 1, 2014. (Aug. 25, 2015) http://jonathanturley.org/2014/09/01/swatting-hoax-national-report-publishes-another-false-story/
  • Wong, David. "5 Easy Ways to Spot a B.S. News Story on the Internet." Cracked. Feb. 27, 2013. (Aug. 25, 2015) http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-easy-ways-to-spot-b.s.-news-story-internet/


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