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Fake News: Social Media

This guide will show you how to evaluate news sources for credibility and accuracy.

Social Media and Fake News

Fake news stories proliferated on social media during the 2016 Presidential Election. 

Users shared millions of fake news articles for personal, financial and political purposes.

Social media platforms cultivate complex relationships with their users, who are both creators and consumers of content.  Adding integrated advertising (such as sponsored posts) into the mix can make it difficult to distinguish real news from fake.

Fake News and Facebook

Newspaper and magnifying glass with Facebook logo and the phrase Tips for spotting false news

Caution triangle 

While Facebook may offer the option to report fake news stories and provide a list of tips to identify fake news, we advise that you consult sources beyond Facebook for fact-checking.

Detour sign

Check mark 

Professional fact-checkers read laterally, meaning they initiate a new search on a separate screen to research the content of an article or website. They look beyond what is stated on "About" pages and ignore the placement of articles in search results as evidence that the top results are the best results. Fact-checking is an active process that should engage multiple sources before arriving at a decision about the reliability of news information. Therefore, it is in your best interest to move beyond Facebook when evaluating information found there.

Adapted from: Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew. "Why Students Can't Google Their Way to the Truth." Education Week, November 1, 2016, 22-28

Identifying Advertising on Facebook and Twitter

Question mark   How do you know if the content you are looking at on Facebook or Twitter is advertising? Look for clues!

Facebook marks posts generated through advertising and inserted into your news feed as "sponsored" with this marker:

Facebook marks additional advertising content filtered through algorithms with the word SPONSORED located above it.

Twitter marks its advertising content as "Promoted Tweets." Look for the icons below marking promoted content at the top or bottom of tweets:

Question mark   Is all sponsored or promoted content filtered to you through social media intentionally false or misleading?

It's a mixed bag. It's up to you to think critically and decide for yourself. Either way, being able to identify content as advertising rather than journalism is necessary when making an informed decision.

Public Figures on Social Media

Screenshot of the Twitter account of Pope Francis. An arrow points to the blue checkmark symbol that indicates a Twitter account has been verified.

When it comes to citing Tweets from public figures, make sure that you are citing from a verified Twitter account. The blue badge icon to the right marks verified Twitter accounts. You can learn more about Twitter verification here.

Facebook profile for Oprah Winfrey. An arrow points to the blue checkmark symbol that indicates a Facebook account has been verified.

Facebook uses similar badges to mark verified accounts.