A short guide to the history of ‘fake news’ and disinformation

Fake News, News & the Internet

Posetti, J., & Matthews, A. (2018). A short guide to the history of ‘fake news’ and disinformation: A new ICFJ learning module [PDF file]. Washington, DC: International Center for Journalists. Retrieved from https://www.icfj.org/sites/default/files/2018-07/A%20Short%20Guide%20to%20History%20of%20Fake%20News%20and%20Disinformation_ICFJ%20Final.pdf.

Description: This short eBook addresses the fact that fake news is not new. It offers an overview of major moments in the history of disinformation, in timeline format. It includes events from the Marc Antony smear campaign of 44BC, to the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in 1493, to the 2005 creation of the Colbert Report, to a 2017 European Union report on fake news. The last few pages of the eBook detail an accompanying learning module.

Why I trust it: This resource is a relatively recent publication that was sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, a nonprofit that has worked with more than 100,000 journalists from 180 countries. Its aim is to provide journalists with resources that enhance their skills and expertise, and the resource itself presents facts without bias.

Use: The best way to arm yourself against fake news is to understand how it developed into what it is today. Use this resource to quickly grasp the overall timeline of disinformation, or use the learning module to help others understand as well.

Access: This resource is free for download from icfj.org.

Charity ratings

Associations & Organizations

Charity Watch. (2019). Charity ratings [website]. Retrieved from https://charitywatch.org/charities.

Description: This resource, parented by an independent nonprofit, began back in 1992, and it researches the efficiency, accountability, and governance of nonprofit organizations. It aims to expose wasteful and unethical charities, and it spotlights top ethical charities. It specializes in analyzing financial reports, and, uniquely, it rates social welfare groups, and religious charities as well.

Use: Use Charity Watch to see where an organization you are learning about, investing in, or becoming involved with stands by its methodology.

Access: This resource is free for use through a preferred internet browser from any computer in the United States, and beyond.

BBB scam tracker

Fake News, Scams & Hoaxes

Better Business Bureau. (2019). BBB scam tracker [database]. Retrieved from https://bbb.org/scamtracker.

Description: This resource is a database of reported and investigated scams, compiled and researched by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). BBB is a nonprofit organization that accredits businesses.

Use: Think you’ve stumbled upon a scam? The BBB Scam Tracker might be able to help you determine if it is. Pop keywords into the search bar and see.

Access: This resource is free for use through a preferred internet browser from any computer in the United States, and beyond.

PolitiFact

Fact-Checking, Politics on the Internet

The Poynter Institute. (2019). PolitiFact [website]. Retrieved from https://politifact.com.

Description: This nonprofit-owned investigative team rates political statements for accuracy based on their independent news expertise and then awards them a score on a “truthometer.”

Why I trust it: Politifact’s core values include: thorough reporting, independence, transparency, and fairness. PolitiFact does not accept donations from political parties, elected officials, candidates seeking public office, or anonymous sources.

Use: This organization has only been fact-checking since 2007, but it has since gained a reputation for unbiased investigation into the truth (or lack thereof) of political statements. Use it to gain some perspective on political entities on all sides.

Access: Politifact is free for use through a preferred internet browser from any computer in the United States, and beyond.

American fact finder

Fact-Checking

U.S. Census Bureau. (2019.) American fact finder advanced search. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/searchresults.xhtml?refresh=t.

Description: This is a government-funded database of community facts, from population data, to school district data, to data on income.

Why I trust it: It’s just the data—plain and simple.

Use: Fact check local news by popping any data listed in a local news article into the search bar to see if it matches up or if the sentence is worded to mislead or paint the data in an alternative light.

Access: The American Fact Finder is free for use through a preferred internet browser from any computer in the United States, and beyond.

Tin eye

Fact-Checking, Fake News, Scams & Hoaxes

TinEye. (2019). Reverse image search [search engine]. Retrieved from https://tineye.com.

Description: This reverse image search accesses a multibillion index of web images to determine from where an image originates and locate/track modified versions.

Use: Wondering if that news article is a hoax? Try reverse searching any images within the article to find their true origins (and debunk that hoax!).

Access: As of now, TinEye is free for use through a preferred internet browser from any computer in the United States, and beyond.

Snopes

Fact-Checking, Fake News, Scams & Hoaxes

Snopes. (2019). Fact check [website]. Retrieved from https://snopes.com/fact-check.

Description: Snopes’ fact checking feature offers an archive of investigated rumors and questionable claims.

Why I trust it: The oldest and largest online fact-checking site, Snopes’ contextualized analysis uses evidence-based practices to fact-check the media. The company has been independently verified by the International Fact Checking Network, and, in the spirit of truth-seeking, it invites skepticism and challengers. The fact-checkers attempt to contact sources for interviews and seek out supporting information. They consult experts, and each fact-check travels through multiple staffers.

Use: Reading something you suspect could be fake? Pop keywords into the search bar to see if it’s been investigated.

Access: Users can access this column using a preferred internet browser from any computer in the United States, and beyond.

Politico

Fact-Checking, Politics on the Internet

Politico. (2019). Is it true? A fake news database [website]. Retreived from https://www.politico.com/interactives/2018/is-this-true.

Description: People send in suspected hoaxes, doctored images, and fake websites. Then, Politico’s team works to determine the truth.

Why I trust it: Politico’s mission is to provide its audience with accurate, nonpartisan information. In 2012, the Poynter Institute found that about the same percentage of Politico readers identify as democrat as do those that identify as republican.

Use: Reading something you suspect could be fake? Pop keywords into this Politico database to see if it’s been investigated. If not, visit the “about the project” link for a submission form.

Access: Users can access this column using a preferred internet browser from any computer in the United States, and beyond.

Fact checker

Fact-Checking

Kessler, G. (2019). Fact checker: The truth behind the rhetoric [column]. Retrieved from https://washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker.  

Description: This column, based on sound news media principles, is authored by professional fact checker Glenn Kessler and his colleagues Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly. Its goal is to fact check the statements of political figures and weed through political rhetoric. The authors also investigate answers to questions submitted by readers.

Why I trust it: Glenn Kessler is an award-winning journalist whose career spans decades. His fact-checking team analyzes political statements on both the left and right, and they do so without inserting opinion. The column appears in the national-news section of The Post, seperate from the editorial or opinion sections. Also, members of the team are not permitted to engage in partisan political activity or make contributions to candidates or advocacy organizations.

Use: Use this resource to fill in missing context in political statements and get a more comprehensive, unbiased picture of topics mentioned by politicians.

Access: Users can access this column using a preferred internet browser from any computer in the United States, and beyond.

Not real news

Fact-Checking, Fake News

The Associated Press (2019). Not real news [column]. Retrieved from https://www.apnews.com/NotRealNews.

Description: This weekly Associated Press column offers an overview and fact-check of the top viral social media content.

Why I trust it: The Associated Press is a not-for-profit news producer in existence for over 150 years. It has won over 50 Pulitzer Prizes, and its content is trusted and reproduced by newspapers world-wide.

Use: Stay “on top of the news” by reading this column each week.

Access: Users can access this column using a preferred internet browser from any computer in the United States, and beyond.