How to Detect Fake News

Posted 2 years ago in Small Business Tips
by Jenny Rollins

Just read something in the news that has you feeling skeptical? There might be a good reason for that. Fake news and propaganda have always been around but with a 24-hour news cycle, it’s worse now than ever before.

One of the biggest things currently affecting business owners is finding real news and real facts. We need to know about changes in financial or corporate law, tax programs, social programs, and even healthcare, because these changes affect many of our business decisions. How are we supposed to make informed decisions if we don’t know what’s real and what’s fake?

Checking out news claims is getting trickier and trickier, so we decided to help you out. Our first, stress-free suggestion would be to use a fact-checking website.

If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, the quickest way to check facts is to use well-known, solid fact-checking websites like Politifact, or Snopes. Recently, Facebook has even released alert that warns users against “disputed content.”

But if you would rather check your news articles yourself, here’s a checklist of things to watch out for:

Fact-checking checklist

Just the facts, ma’am

Before you read the rest of the article in question, scan through for facts, statistics, and quotes. If the article doesn’t have any of those, it’s probably not legitimate. If it does, you can easily copy those and search them to see if any other legitimate news sites back it up. If you can, check the math yourself to see if it’s accurate.

Consider the source

Good news articles will have their sources either cited within the article (like, “In a study done by Cambridge students in 2015 . . .”) or at the bottom of the page. Are there sources cited correctly? Are they legitimate, credible sources? If not, is it a study or an experiment that you can replicate?

How reputable is the domain?

Double-check the domain name to make sure it’s not “ABCDNews” instead of “ABCNews.” You’d be surprised at how much this helps. You can also do a “whois” lookup, which will give useful information like when the site was created (the newer, the less reputable).

Look for contact information

Look for a Contact Us page or contact information in the header or footer of the website. Do they have one? Is it well written and typo-free? Is their mission unbiased? Do they have a way for you to contact them besides a contact form? If the answer to any of these is no, it’s probably not a valid news source.

Check the grammar

False news articles are not frequently editing masterpieces. They usually use an excessive amount of caps and exclamation points. A lot of them will have frequent spelling errors or basic grammar errors because many fake news sites rely on authors that aren’t native English speakers.

Is there an author byline?

Look at the bio of the author and see if it makes sense. Check to see if the awards they’ve won or the schools they supposedly got their degrees from actually exist. Google their name to see if they have any other articles or credentials available. If there isn’t a name at all, it’s probably bogus.

Does it have tons of ads?

To be completely frank, most reputable news sources don’t have the latest Kardashian’s swimsuits as a sidebar. Nor will they have the latest superfood diet or links like, “12 Actors That Painted Their Nails In Public.” While most sites are going to have some ads, consider low-quality ads as a signal that maybe you are dealing with a low-quality site.

Practice makes perfect

Now let’s practice this checklist with one of our recent blog posts.

The facts: You can easily scan the page to find statistics and charts. If you do the math yourself, you will find that it adds up, meaning that ZipBooks really is faster than the other software companies.

The sources: We ran this experiment and detail the steps study in the article, so you can replicate it and check it.

The domain: If you look at our domain, it is still relatively new because we are a newer company, but the domain was not created yesterday just to create this blog post.

The About or Contact pages: Our About page has a description of our business, as well as a brief note from the founder of company, Tim Chaves. You can easily Google him and find him mentioned in articles from the Business Collective and Herald Extra, among others. You can also easily see our contact information at the bottom of the page. Send us a quick chat to talk with us directly.

The grammar: Our editors work hard to make sure our blogs are typo-free and professional.

Byline/bio: If you Google, “Brad Hanks ZipBooks,” you will find Brad’s LinkedIn page, as well as several other articles that he has written for the blog, as well as other third-party sites.

The ads: We like to keep our site clean, so there are no distracting or unprofessional ads, only other related business blog posts that you might be interested in.

We pass the reputable source checklist with flying colors, so you can trust our claim that we have the fastest online accounting software. We wish you the best with your future fact-checking!

About Jenny

Jenny is a content writer for ZipBooks and a graduate student at Brigham Young University.

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