Tips for Spotting Fake News Online

Illustration of magnifying glass that shows word Truth is made up of small words "Lies"

Learn how to inoculate yourself against rumors spread on social networks. Here are some ways to fact-check stories you see online.

Can you find the same news from different sources?

Say a story has an outrageous quote from President Trump. As a public official, the president has almost everything he says reported by multiple news outlets. Google the quote and see if it shows up elsewhere.

Read beyond the headline.

If a provocative headline grabs your attention, read a little further to see if the story supports the headline’s claims before clicking the “share” button. And check the comments — misleading headlines are usually called out for being fake in Facebook’s comments section.

What’s the date of publication?

It’s common for an inflammatory article to make the rounds long after it first appeared. Don’t get riled up about something that happened years ago.

Consult the experts.

Debunking takes time. Search FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, or PolitiFact.com to see if these reliable sites have already fact-checked the latest viral claim.

Reverse image search.

Striking pictures on a viral news story may have nothing to do with the story itself. You can reverse search an image on Google (right-click the image to do this) and find out whether it matches the story. 

Becky Oskin, content strategist in the College of Letters and Science, wrote this story for the fall 2019 issue of the College of Letters and Science Magazine