How to spot fake news

Fake news is a complicated problem. In partnership with Facebook, we are sharing these 10 tips for helping you take the first steps to spotting misinformation.

  1. Be sceptical of headlines

    False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.

  2. Look closely at the URL

    A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.

  3. Investigate the source

    Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organisation, check their ‘About’ section to learn more.

  4. Watch for unusual formatting

    Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these things.

  5. Consider the photos

    False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.

  6. Inspect the dates

    False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.

  7. Check the evidence

    Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.

  8. Look at other reports

    If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true.

  9. Is the story a joke?

    Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humour or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.

  10. Some stories are intentionally false

    Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.

How to spot fake photos and videos

First Draft News has guides on how to verify photos and videos online.

How to find facts

There is a wealth of information out there, but how do you find it? Full Fact Finder gives you guidance and signposts to some of the key sources of information about the UK. The topics covered are the economy, health, crime, immigration and education.

The information you’re looking for won’t always be published, but you might be able to make a Freedom of Information request to bring it to light. The BBC has handy tips and tricks for authoring the perfect FOI request.

Factchecking for schools

If you’re a teacher or work in education, why not bring factchecking into your next lesson or assembly?

IFCN Lesson Plan

Factcheckers from across the world have designed a full lesson plan aimed at 14-16 year-olds in 13 languages. The plan includes a reading and annotation exercise to test how well students can separate fact from fiction, an example fake news story that you can debunk with the class, and background material so you can adapt the plan to suit your group.

Newsround

We worked with BBC Newsround to teach primary school children how to spot fake news. The class of 9-11 year-olds was shown a series of silly, made-up stories but weren’t told they were fake until they’d read and told us what they thought of each one. We then gave out quick tips to help them to spot fake news for themselves.


Factchecking near you

We regularly give talks and workshops across the country to a range of audiences including journalism schools, government departments and at corporate events.

Here are some we’ve done recently:

At Google The team at News Impact Summit At RSS Wikipedia Editathon

Our bookshelf

When we’re not scouring the web for facts, we love a good book. Here are some of our favourites.

The Tiger That Isn’t by Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot—“a painless introduction to the maths of the real world”.

The Rise of Political Lying by Peter Oborne—The book that first recommended we needed a factchecking organisation in the UK.

Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe, creator of XKCD—“Complicated stuff in simple words” using only drawings and the 1,000 most common words in English.

How to Lie with Statistics, by Darrell Huff—“picks apart the ways in which marketers use statistics, charts, graphics and other ways of presenting numbers to baffle and trick the public”.

A Question of Trust, the BBC Reith Lectures 2002, by Onora O’Neill—“challenges current approaches, investigates sources of deception in our society and re-examines questions of press freedom”.