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The Vanguard

Suggestions for students to recognize fake news articles

Krisha Amin, Reporter

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Fake news is prolific but – with a healthy dose of skepticism – fairly easy to recognize. Credible news organizations often provide concrete references to support the content of the article. This allows readers to verify the origin of the information.

There is a fine line between entertainment and truth value. Buzzfeed and The Guardian describe themselves as “global news organizations” but have published rumor-heavy and unsubstantiated. The Guardian published stories about Julian Assange endorsing Trump, for example, which never happened.

Readers are encouraged to go past the title of the piece and look at the domain and URL of a website. Check when the article was published. Articles that stem from suspicious websites ending in the .com.co; .su; or any sort of social publishing site may be a red flag.

There is a big difference between ABCNews.com and ABCNews.com.co, according to NPR News. Although these two sources have a similar URL appearance, the former is a legitimate news source while the latter is a self-described news blog.

Also, look for any primary sources that the article uses, such as a series of quotes or an absence of them. The more controversial a topic, the more attention it should receive from outside sources.

ABCNews.com.co posted an article that stated former President Barack Obama signed an executive order to retract the Pledge of Allegiance. Obama is an official whose public statements are recorded. This article used false quotes to create a false story.

Fake news can also proliferate through photo manipulation. Quotes and sources should be traceable to a specific archive.

Check the “About Us” section of the news outlet. This section should enlighten readers about the intent, mission and ethics of the news outlet. The mission statement should be concise and void of strong language. Some descriptive terms in the “About Us” section to be wary of are any superlatives such as “greatest,” “biggest,” or “multiverse,” for example.

Readers should also check for contradictory statements. For instance, a source may claim to be a news source while simultaneously claiming to be an entertainment source.

Furthermore, be skeptical of websites that specifically have the key-words “Write for Us” on the main homepage. These are normally blog sites that are gilded in a news website format. These sites are prone to grammar issues. While mistakes are unavoidable, credible sources check their articles several times for grammatical issues before publishing. Credible news sources also take responsibility to publish retractions to avoid the spread of misinformation in the event of a mistake.  

Check to see if other news sources are reporting the same issue. This helps readers to fact check articles. If two articles are saying different things, the content requires further investigation.

Six media conglomerates control 90 percent of the mass media enterprises in the U.S., according to Forbes. Notable properties of the six main media corporations include CNN, Time, ABC, Wall Street Journal, Fox, NPR and NBC, to name a few.

Avoid using a single news conglomerate in order to get a full understanding of a news concept. Conglomerates have an agenda and will tend to express them in their articles. Try branching outside of U.S. media empires and using international news sources such as Al Jazeera or BBC, for example.

Consider if the article is intended to be satirical, such as those distributed by the theonion.com. Additionally, be aware that Facebook and Twitter curate news stories on your feed based upon your previous likes.

On President Donald Trump’s Inauguration day, Twitter lapsed into a brief panic over the alleged removal of Obama’s policies as well as references to LGBT from the White House website. Obama’s policies were archived, not removed, per protocol with each new presidential inductee. Many social media users were misinformed about the transition process until some Twitter users cleared up the matter.
Finally, check yourself. Readers who are knowledgeable about a topic being discussed are less likely to be fooled by fake news. Take the extra step to educate yourself on topics that you care about, and don’t share news links without reading it first.

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The student news site of The University of South Alabama
Suggestions for students to recognize fake news articles