How to outsmart fake news in your Facebook feed


Only because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it true. It seems so simple, but if everyone knew this, Facebook and Google wouldn’t have to pull fake news sites out of their advertising algorithms, and people wouldn’t breathlessly share stories claiming Donald Trump was a secret lizard person or Hillary Clinton an android in a pants suit.

It doesn’t have to be like this. are fake news actually quite easy to spot – If you know how. Consider this your new guide to media literacy.

NOTE: In compiling this, we sought input from two communications experts: dr Melissa ZimdarsAssociate Professor at Merrimack College in Massachusetts its dynamics List of unreliable news sites has gone viral, and Alexios Manzarlisthe head of International Fact Check Network at the Pointer Institute.

First, familiarize yourself with the different types of misleading and fake news

1. Fake News

  • These are the easiest to detect and often come from well-known bogus sites designed to look like real news outlets. They may contain misleading photos and headlines that, at first glance, sound like they could be real.
  • 2. Misleading Messages

  • These are the hardest to debunk because they often contain a kernel of truth: a fact, event, or quote taken out of context. Look for sensational headlines that aren’t supported by the information in the article.
  • 3. Extremely partisan news

  • A type of misleading news, this can be an interpretation of a real news event where facts are manipulated to fit an agenda.
  • 4. Clickbait

  • The shocking or teasing headlines of these stories entice you to click for more information – which may or may not deliver on the promise.
  • 5. satires

  • This one is harsh because satire doesn’t pretend to be real and serves as commentary or entertainment. But if people are unfamiliar with a satire website, they can share the news as if it were legitimate.
  • Second, improve your fact-checking skills

  • Alexios Mantzarlis trains fact-checkers to make a living. He says it’s important to have a “healthy dose of skepticism” and to think, really think, before sharing a message.
  • “If we were a little slower to just share and retweet content based on the headline, we would go in a good way to combat shallowness,” he told CNN.
  • Melissa Zimdars points out that even those who spend a lot of time online are not immune to fake content.
  • “People think so [thinking] only applies to older people,” she told CNN. “I think that early education should teach about communication, media and the internet. Growing up with the internet doesn’t necessarily mean you’re internet savvy.”
  • For starters, here are 10 questions to ask when something looks fake:

    says Zimdars Sites with strange suffixes like “.co” or “.su” or hosted by third-party platforms like WordPress should raise a red flag. Some fake sites, like National Report, have legitimate-sounding if not overly generic names that can easily fool people on social sites. For example, several fake reports from went viral before being debunked, including a June article that claimed President Obama had signed an executive order banning the sale of assault weapons.

    Mantzarlis says one of the main reasons fake news spreads on Facebook is that people are drawn to a headline and Don’t click through.

    Just this week, several shady organizations circulated a story about Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi. “Pepsi STOCK crashes after CEO tells Trump supporters to do business elsewhere,” trumpeted one such headline.

    However, the articles themselves didn’t include that quote or any evidence that Pepsi stock posted a significant decline (it didn’t). Nooyi made recorded comments on Trump’s election but was never quoted as telling his supporters to “take business elsewhere.”

    Once in a while legitimate messages can be twisted and revived Years after the fact to create a false conflation of events. Mantzarlis recalls an erroneous story that actually quoted a legitimate message from CNNMoney.

    A blog called Viral Liberty recently reported that Ford shifted production of some of its trucks from Mexico to Ohio because of Donald Trump’s election victory. The story quickly ignited online – after all, it seemed like a big win for the domestic auto industry.

    It turns out that Ford moved some production from Mexico to Ohio in 2015. It had nothing at all to do with the election results.

    Photos and videos can also be taken out of context to support a false claim. In April, the liberal website Occupy Democrats published a video allegedly showing a young woman being removed from a bathroom by police because she did not look feminine enough. This happened during the height of the HB2 “bathroom bill” controversy, and the article clearly linked the two. “IT’S BEGINNING” was the headline.

    However, the video did not include a date or evidence that it was filmed in North Carolina, where the “bathroom bill” was set to be passed.

    In fact, according to Snopes, the same video was posted to a Facebook page in 2015, meaning it took place before the HB2 controversy.

    Not only political news can be fake. Now8News is one of the most notorious fake-but-real-looking websites, specializing in the kind of weird news that often goes viral.

    One such article claims Coca-Cola recalled Dasani water bottles after a “clear parasite” was found in the water. There was even an accompanying icky picture that supposedly showed the parasite, although some simple Googling reveals it’s most likely a photo of a young eel.

    Regardless, the article had no statement or claim by any company. That would of course be a big story. Dasani or a number of consumer advocacy groups would issue statements or press releases about this, right? There are none to be found – because the story is 100% fake.

    Other 98%

    A popular meme from liberal Facebook groups includes a fake quote from Donald Trump, allegedly from a 1998 People Magazine interview:

    “If I had to run, I would run as a Republican. They are the dumbest constituency in the country. They believe everything on Fox News. I could lie and they would still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be great.

    This one is easy to debunk if you take even a moment to think about it: has extensive archives, and that Quote is nowhere to be found in them.

    During this election season, Pope Francis has been caught up in three super viral and completely false stories. According to various (fake) websites, the Pope has endorsed three US presidential candidates: First, Bernie Sanders, as “reported” by National Report and Then Donald Trump, as “reported” by fake news site WTOE 5 News. Finally, another fake news site,, reported that he had endorsed Hillary Clinton!

    In all of these cases, subsequent reports all circled back to the fake ones. It’s always good to tracing a story back to its original sourceand if you find yourself in a loop – or if they all lead back to the same shady page – you have reason to doubt.

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    JEWEL SAMAD / AFP / Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

    say both Zimdars and Mantzarlis Confirmation bias is an important reason Fake news spreads as they do. Some of this is built into Facebook’s algorithm – the more you like or interact with a particular interest, the more Facebook will show you what’s related to that interest.

    If you hate Donald Trump, you are more likely to believe negative stories about Donald Trump are true, even when there is no evidence.

    “We look for information that already fits our established beliefs,” says Zimdars. “If we come into contact with information that we don’t agree with, that can still validate us because we will try to find errors.”

    So if you come across an outrageous article that “feels too good to be true”, beware: it just might be.

    Did you know that there actually is an international fact-checking network (run by Mantzarlis)? And that there is a code of principles? The Code includes, among other things, the ideals of impartiality and transparency. Websites such as, Snopes and Politifact adhere to this Code. So if you see a debunking there, you’ll know You get the real deal. Check out the full list here.

    That’s where Things can get difficult. There is obviously a big difference between “misleading” news, which is usually based on fact, and “fake” news, which is just fiction disguised as fact. The now-famous list of zimdars includes both types, as well as satire and sites that capitalize on clickbait headlines. Snopes also keeps a list.

    While Zimdars is happy that her list has received so much attention, she also warns that writing off some of the sites entirely as “fake” is not accurate. “I want to make sure this list doesn’t do the ultimate goal a huge favor,” she says. “It’s interesting that some of the headlines [about my list] are just as hyperbolic as those I analyze.”