10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Story

The Website Carries a Disclaimer
The Onion, a satirical newspaper, ceased print publication in 2013 and is exclusively online. Unlike other fake sites out there, it is clear that its news is not to be taken seriously. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Above-board satirical websites like The Onion tell you they're peddling satire. Less-honest sites sometimes issue confusing disclaimers. NewsBuzzDaily, for example, writes on every page that it contains both "real shocking news" and "satire news," then adds, "Please note that articles written on this site are for entertainment and satirical purposes only." So is it all satire or only partial satire? And if partial, which stories are true?

Even worse, though, is The Stately Harold. Readers should suspect the site is fake; it features a simplistic, campy home page (another sign to watch out for) and misspells "Herald" as "Harold." It defends itself by saying its site carries a disclaimer, and it does. "This is Satire!" is printed at the bottom of every page. But those words lie hidden within a black box on the bottom of the page that contains the copyright. The only way you can see them is if you highlight the copyright with your cursor. Well, who would think to do that?!

What's the lesson here? If you're not sure about a website's legitimacy, search around to see if there's any kind of disclaimer. If you find one, that likely means the site can't be trusted, even if the disclaimer is worded confusingly. Legitimate sites don't need disclaimers.