Take on the scrolling masses with confidence using these reliable resources
If there’s one thing the internet is good at it, it’s sharing information. In fact, it’s probably the thing that the internet is best at. And that’s led to some really incredible things, from literal revolutions to entire new industries to late night Reddit rabbit holes of cute cat videos.
But it’s also led to the widespread distribution of — and let’s just call them what they are — lies. It’s not difficult to build a website that looks like a legitimate news source — and it’s even easier to repost something from it on Facebook. And considering the fact that you can get literal graduate degrees in media analysis, the general public can’t be faulted for having a hard time figuring out what’s real and what’s not.
The real-world effects of the fast spread of information has never been more apparent than in the past few years. From Pizzagate to QAnon to anti-vaccination campaigns (on both the left and the right) to the false claim that the US election was stolen and the subsequent deadly insurrection, it can sometimes feel like there’s a new misinformation campaign gaining steam every day.
It definitely doesn’t help that everyone is still stuck at home because of the pandemic. That means we have more time online; more time to get sucked into Reddit and YouTube and Facebook holes. It means we’re not having to see the incredulous faces of our friends and relatives when we try out the latest conspiracy we read online. And because we’re searching for connection, it means we’re quicker than ever with that “share” button.
But before you click “share,” why not take a couple of minutes to fact-check that tweet/post/article?
No one is expecting the average Joe and Josephina to be Columbia journalism graduates when it comes to vetting whether or not information online is legitimate. But our current system lacks official fact checkers for much of what we consume, which kind of puts the onus on us — the consumer — to do the fact-checking ourselves. And if we all did approximately two minutes of fact-checking before sharing, it’s safe to say that the world (and all of our timelines) would be a vastly better place.
How to up your fact-checking skills
Start with these five sites, which are recognized by those journalism grads as giving good information. And thanks for making the internet (and the world) just a little bit better.
While most of the sites listed here are specific to politics, let’s start with the oldest and best fact-checking site online: Snopes, which has been fact-checking weird stories since before Google had a search engine. They have a long record of being unbiased, showing their work, and keeping up the irreverent tone that true internet nerds love. They’re also great for everything from urban myths to political statements to, yes, fact-checking your uncle’s latest conspiracy theory Facebook post.
They also admit on their “About” page that “No single source, no matter how reliable, is infallible.” It’s a statement that shows humility — and it’s true. No one is right 100 percent of the time and a fact-checking organization that publicly recognizes that is one to trust.
On the Media’s awesome Breaking News Consumer Handbook: Fake News Edition not only gives excellent tips on how to spot misinformation on the fly, but also has a comprehensive, non-biased list of sketchy sites. Use them for a quick gut check when you see something online and think, "Is that true?".
If one of your hobbies is fact-checking the outrageous stuff politicians say, thenFactCheck.org should be bookmarked in your browser. (Also: Points for that URL!) The site is a non-partisan “‘consumer advocate’ for voters” that monitors and checks the things people in politics say in “TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.” Their homepage is an accessible feed scroll with clear titles and synopsis about current issues and the ability to learn more by clicking on the title. You can also search for specific topics if the fact you’re checking isn’t a current issue.
Politifact is another great one for fact-checking politicians, political statements, statements about politics, etc. In addition to reporting the truth, they also have a great design that helps guide users through the type of post they’re fact-checking: Facebook posts, IG posts, tweets, or from the politician’s mouth. Add in their Truth-O-Meter and the just might win for Most Fun Dorky Fact-Checking Site.
Washington Post Fact Checker
If you’re looking for some expert analysis with your fact-checking, check out theWashington Post Fact Checker. The publication tends to lean liberal, but this tool has a reputation for being non-partisan. They also have a funny Pinocchio graphic that gauges just how big the lie really is.
So do you feel better prepared to take on the scrolling masses with your newly earned fact checker skills? Go ahead — post a Snopes correction on that QAnon Facebook post from the girl who sat next to you in high school English. You’ll be doing everyone a favor.