How to Know If the News You're Reading Is Legit Or Not
Don’t get April fooled.
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April Fools is coming up and you may be thinking of the pranks that you’re going to pull on your friends or your siblings. One thing that isn’t a good gotcha? News online that isn’t factual. Read on to find out how you can spot the signs of credible news versus what’s BS.

In a 2019 DoSomething survey, 67% of young people said finding truthful information online is one of the biggest challenges they face online. Yet, while young people find this difficult, it’s a problem for every generation, especially adults, who are 7 times more likely to share articles with untrue information than people aged 18-29. Check out this article about how our brains trick us into believing untrue information that’s made to manipulate our opinions and beliefs.

Navigating the internet and noticing what information is true and what’s spun up to spread misinformation is difficult. Here are some key things to know about finding truthful information online:

It’s a red flag if a piece of content:

Makes up and distorts common information. This article shows you specific examples of how social media, for instance, takes information and jumbles it up until it appears factual.

Fails to provide any credible sourcing. Credible sourcing refers to including citations of government entities, notable institutions, or scholars in any mention of statistics or information. For instance, reports by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or surveying by Pew are both credible sources. For sources that you’re unsure of, ask another person or do more research into what the source is.

Does not disclose funding sources. Especially if you’re looking to news sources or academic reports for writing papers for school, it’s important to know who funded the research, whether it was the government, a private corporation, etc. If the source does not disclose whether the funding came from, it’s cause for concern. A common phrase you’ll find that indicates funding support to look for is “Could not have been possible without the generous support/contribution.”

A credible source is one that:

References a wire service (like AP or Reuters), a press release, or any form of an official statement. These sources will likely be linked if you’re reading the story online.

Uses multiple named sources that have a firsthand account. Named sources are people explicitly mentioned (for example, “according to Senator Rand Paul”) and anonymous sources are ones that fail to mention a specific name (for example, “according to a high-level government official”). Named sources carry more weight and anonymous sources, while potentially legit, should be taken with a grain of salt.

If based on an anonymous source, is backed by a credible journalist in the space. Sometimes a source will ask to be anonymous for fear of their safety, losing their job, or another reason. If a story uses anonymous sources, look at other stories by that journalist or writer to see how credible they are.

Cites a document, photo, video, or other form of evidence to back the story. All facts should be backed up with quotes from a direct source or include a citation to show where that information came from.

Put your spotting skills to the test.

This quiz will help you spot real headlines from fake ones, and this quiz is about spotting deceptive Facebook posts. Oh! And a good rule: If you see information, make sure you can find that information on other legit sites too.

Want to help others stay safe and responsible online? Take our Untangle the Web quiz, powered by SCE.


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