Since the election of Donald Trump, “fake news” has become a focal point of frustration and a weapon used to sow doubt in legitimate media stories.
But fake news is real, and it's more pervasive than you might think.
Facebook, a primary driver of traffic to publications, came under fire late last year for allowing the promotion of “fake news” websites and sites that deal in conspiracy theories rather than facts. Some Facebook employees even reportedly revolted and took matters into their own hands before the company took steps to reduce fake news.
While some believe the rise of fake news contributed to Trump's election victory, the term has been co-opted by Trump himself, which he uses as a weapon against news stories and publications he dislikes. During his first press conference as president-elect, Trump called by BuzzFeed and CNN “fake news” for reporting on an unconfirmed dossier that made damning allegations regarding Trump and Russia.
Both Facebook and Google have responded by cutting these sites out of their advertising networks and otherwise making their stories harder to find. And PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking site, has launched a new section devoted to fake news.
But those sites are still out there, and someone on your Facebook friend's list is probably sharing one of their stories right now. If you want to check out whether a story is from a dubious source yourself, you can use one of these three Google Chrome plugins.
Late last year, Melissa Zimdars, a media professor at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, compiled a list of “fake, false, or regularly misleading websites” that purposefully publish fake information or are otherwise entirely unreliable. The list, which has since been removed due to threats and harassment Zimdars says she received, also included sites that “may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information” or “sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions.”
Of course, “real news” media outlets and journalists sometimes make mistakes, including us at the Daily Dot. And when we do, we issue corrections and take responsibility for those mistakes. “Fake news” sites make no such efforts toward accuracy, which is what puts them in a different category.
Below, we've listed the sites Zimdars identified as regularly pushing demonstrably fake or highly misleading stories—meaning they intentionally published or promoted unverified information as though it's legitmate news—as well as a few sites we've discovered since Zimdars first compiled her list. We've also removed sites that were on Zimdars' list but are no longer available.
In addition to the list, Zimdars has created a tip sheet for news consumers so that we all might better decipher what's real, what's fake, and what's simply misleading in ways that have nothing to do with whether you agree with a particular article or not:
Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo (above). These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).
Watch out for websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources
Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.
Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.
Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).
Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.
Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.
If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.
- It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.
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