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Detecting Misinformation

How to detect misinformation and critically evaluate sources.

Questions to Ask About Information

These questions will help you as you evaluate information.

  • Who created this content? Often it's easy to find out who created an article, podcast, etc., but people and organizations who spread disinformation aren't always straightforward about who created the content. If you need to make a medical or financial decision, look for information that was created or at least reviewed by an expert in the field.
  • Why was this content created? Is the content supposed to inform (news), persuade (opinion), or entertain you? Satirical news sites, like The Onion and Reductress, are created for entertainment.
  • What kind of language does the content creator use? Journalists typically strive to use neutral language in their reporting, while opinion writers use persuasive language. Watch out for opinion and misinformation masquerading as news; politically slanted media organizations frequently put out "news" content that paints an inaccurate picture of events.
  • Does this content confirm or contradict my beliefs? If we have strong beliefs about an issue or person (for example, a politician), it might be difficult to believe information that goes against our opinions. Likewise, we're more likely to believe information that supports our opinions. Awareness of our own opinions and biases can help us evaluate information critically.
  • Does this content make extraordinary claims? Be wary of sources that claim a medical product or supplement is a "miracle" cure, or that seem invested in selling a specific brand of product. Be wary of online content with click-bait headlines that include words like "shocking," "explosive," "outrageous," or "bizarre." Be wary of news stories that don't name any of their sources.
  • Are other sources reporting the same information? National events will typically be reported by more than one news organization. This question won't always be helpful for local events, though, especially in towns that don't have a newspaper or news station.
  • How long ago was this content created? As events develop, the news changes. Likewise, as scientists gather more data, they revise their findings. Make sure you're not relying on outdated content.

The following websites have more tools and questions to jump-start your information evaluation:

Defining Our Own Biases

As we evaluate information, it's important to know our own biases. Otherwise, we might be tempted to throw out valid information because it goes against our beliefs, or to believe misinformation because it validates our beliefs.

If you're not sure what your political biases are, try one of the quizzes below.

Information Evaluation Models

Fact Checking Tools