10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Story

The Website Has an Odd Domain Name
A website, falsely identifying itself as "BBC News," with links connecting it to the real BBC News, reports the death of pop singer Britney Spears, June 13, 2001. Sion Touhig/Getty Images

One of the easier ways to spot suspect stories is if they're located on a news site with a strange domain name. Sometimes if a story originates on a site ending in ".ru" or ".co", that's a red flag. ".Ru" is used by the Russian federation, while ".co" is used by Colombia; these two extensions are considered suspect.Other untrustworthy sites will try to imitate a reputable, well-known website by incorporating it into its own URL; for example, using NBC as part of its URL: www.nbc-real-news.com. Another trick? Using nearly the same URL as a popular site, omitting a letter or two, or misspelling the name. Very long, complex domain names are another sign something might be amiss

Remember, too, that anyone can pay for any domain name they'd like. In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, for example, someone who was ticked at Republican candidate Carly Fiorina snagged the domain name "carlyfiorina.org." The site illustrates, through frowny faces, the 30,000 people she laid off as head of Hewlett-Packard [source: Toussaint]. This isn't a story, of course. But if you read a story on, say, the evils of butter, and it's on a site called "ilovebutter.org," you should suspect something slippery is going on.