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Learning To Spot Fake News: Start With A Gut Check


  1. Check for previous work: Look around to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research. [Some places to look: Wikipedia, Snopes, Politifact and NPR’s own Fact Check website.]
  2. Go upstream to the source: Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information. Is it a reputable scientific journal? Is there an original news media account from a well-known outlet? If that’s not immediately apparent, then move to step 3.
  3. Read laterally: Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.
  4. Circle back: If you get lost, or hit dead ends or find yourself going down a rabbit hole, back up and start over.

Italy takes the lead on spotting fake news by teaching children to identify fake news: In Italian Schools, Reading, Writing and Recognizing Fake News - The New York Times


When I’m in doubt I look at citations. If there are none, I do a quick search. A lot of the crazier stuff traces back to a really uneducated blog post, and in many cases their own.

I think there are a few super basic checks that people often forget are “easy tells” for fake news:

  1. Check the design of the website — is it professional/clean looking?
  2. Check the URL — is it typical looking? Is it consistent with other things from that site?

These are often “natural” checks for people who grew up to scrutinize the internet - but I’ve come to learn that it’s actually not “natural” for a vast majority of people.

1 Like

Great resource on developing critical thinking skills.


Judith, you hit the nail on the head, it’s about teaching children to not only ‘identify fake news’ but to be able to use logical thinking to dissect anything and everything. I have told my four children (adults now) to question everything. For me taking symbolic logic was the key to being able to apply logic in order to analyze the veracity of what I am hearing, reading or watching. Here’s a good source for explaining that Formal fallacy - Wikipedia . In my class the first thing we learned was how easy it is to arrive at a false conclusion, aka, a deductive fallacy.
The example from my class was:

All animals have four legs.
Horses have four legs,
Therefore all animals are horses.

When you read that, it’s easy to see the error in logic but in real life spotting error is not so easy. If chlldren are taught how to apply logic as a regular part of their curriculum, we would not have had such a large number of gullible people voting for Trump.