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Evaluate Information

Tips on evaluating the sources you find in your research.

You may encounter both types of information in your research, and neither is considered credible. The difference between disinformation and misinformation is usually the intent behind it: misinformation is usually unintentionally incorrect; disinformation is usually purposefully created to mislead people. "Fake news" often falls into the disinformation category. However, just because someone calls information "fake news" does not necessarily mean that it is fake. Use the strategies on this guide to help you determine the truth of information you encounter.

What kinds of fake news exist?     

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There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.

CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.

CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information

CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions

CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news

 

No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.)  Some articles fall under more than one category.  Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not.   It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

 

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