Do you find yourself hesitating a bit before reading news online? Are you no longer sure what to believe on social media? Access to information is a vital part of our democracy, but let’s all resolve in 2018 to be a little smarter about how we absorb and pass on information from the Internet. For many years, librarians have been working hard to educate people about the importance of verifying sources. This is even more important when we spend so much time online where the information has not always gone through a vetting or editorial process. We all should be responsible in checking that our “news” is factual before passing it on!
Here are some basic tips for verifying online information:
- Read through all of the content that you are thinking of re-posting. Don’t re-post just based on a headline! The headline may not reflect the content of the article, or the article may be from an organization that publishes satire rather than facts.
- Check the URL of the website. Most of us have been doing this, but remember that websites have become trickier! Look for “extra” characters in the URL. Legitimate news sites will have very simple URLs. You can find out who created the website at: www.whois.com
- The author of the article should be identified. Go to the “About Us” tab of an organization’s web page to learn more about the group. Is it an individual, a board, a non-profit, etc.? Do an Internet search for the organization or individual author.
- Look online to see if other reputable sources are covering the same story.
- Use a fact-checking organization. You can find a list here.
- Verify images. You can save an image and then upload it to https://www.google.com/imghp As an example, this photograph was labeled on a Facebook post as a portion of a wall between Mexico and Guatemala. By verifying the image, you can learn that the image is actually part of the Israeli -Palestinian border.
- Check the currency of the news item. Fake stories are a bit like bad pennies – they keep turning up.
Making the effort to verify information is something we can all do! For more articles on the topic of “Fake News”, read a few of the articles on this page from the American Library Association.