Use 5 steps to identify fake news before you "like" it

Think you're good at spotting fake news?

Even supposed "digital natives" can be fooled. In a study of 1,000 millennials between the ages of 22 and 30, only 24% of them could accurately identify fake news.

A researcher is working with colleges to improve students' ability to recognize fake news, Anya Kamenetz reports for NPR.

Mike Caulfield, director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University and director of the Digital Polarization Initiative at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, argues that the way to improve media literacy is to teach people how to think like fact-checkers. He encourages his students to practice "four moves and a habit":  

Move 1: Look for existing verification

First, Caulfield recommends looking for previous fact-checking attempts. Kamenetz offers examples of places to check, including Wikipedia, Snopes, Politifact, and NPR's Fact Check website.

Move 2: Find the original source

Most online content is based on other sources, Caulfield notes. He recommends looking for the place where the claim first appeared. Then, you can determine whether the source is trustworthy (such as a reputable scientific journal or major news outlet).

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Move 3: Read laterally 

If it's unclear whether an original source is reputable, Caulfield recommends looking up what other people have said online about the source. For example, open a new browser tab and see what you can find about the source and the author.

Move 4: Repeat

If you find yourself lost, Caulfield suggests returning to the first step and starting the process again.

And a habit

Pay attention to how you respond to the news stories you read. "When you feel strong emotion—happiness, anger, pride, vindication—and that emotion pushes you to share a 'fact' with others, STOP," he says. Caulfield argues that you should interpret your emotional reaction as a red flag, because fake news is typically designed precisely to generate strong emotions and override critical thinking.

One of Caulfield's goals is to stop the spread of fake news. He hopes that his work will inspire others to take "90 seconds to two minutes" to review a story before sharing it—or even to leave comments on their friends' posts when they spot incorrect information (Kamenetz, NPR, 10/31).

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