One of the things that has made me angry are fake news sites that try to make people angry. I’ve been blocking lots of these places, but still, people circumvent my blocks by independently sending me links to the lie of the day, and it’s more than a little annoying. Melissa Zimdars has been doing something about it, though: she has begun compiling a long list of all the fake news/”satire” sites out there. Do check that list before you get annoyed at some fresh horror in the world — it’s entirely possible that it’s completely imaginary.
It has a long way to go to even approximate completeness, unfortunately, because new ones keep cropping up. It’s got some well known and infamous sites on the list, like Breitbart and everything Alex Jones has cobbled up, but it’s missing some, like the Drudge Report, and it can’t possibly cover all the dishonest wackaloons on the web — I’m currently getting flooded with crap from constitution.com, for instance, which seems to be trying to make a name for itself with histrionic conservativism.
But there has also been Snopes, which, for example, takes apart a lying claim that liberals are beating up innocent people from a site called christiantimesnewspaper.com. That’s not on the Zimdars list.
The bottom line is that you can’t rely on lists of baddies. You have to use critical thinking. Zimdars provides some good general rules to follow.
- 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.
It’s always good to think when reading!