Skip to Main Content

Fake News or Real News: Determining the Reliability of Sources: Fake News

Spotting Fake News

How to Spot Fake News

  • Be skeptical of claims in viral news articles
  • It's fake if there’s a reference to a legitimate source that completely contradicts the information in the story.
  • The story is riddled with spelling errors.
  • Look at the root of the website URL: has a root of . A fake site was using to generate fake news income.
  • Check the total URL address; is not the address for the ABC news site. URLs using .co or Newslo are never reputable news sites.
  • Check the experts. See Factchecking for suggestions of places to check.

Adapted from How to Spot Fake News by Lori Robertson and Eugene Kiely

How Fake News Goes Viral

This case study was published in The New York Times on November 11, 2016. Also, read "Why Fake News Stories Thrive online"

Analyzing a parody or satirical news site

The Onion is a parody news site. They started as a satirical print newspaper but are now only available online. Using the "About Us" section of the site still does not  make clear that it is satirical as they keep the parody going here also. They use outlandish "facts" to clue you in on the joke. (Emphasis added by us.)

The Onion is the world’s leading news publication, offering highly acclaimed, universally revered coverage of breaking national, international, and local news events. Rising from its humble beginnings as a print newspaper in 1765, The Onion now enjoys a daily readership of 4.3 trillion and has grown into the single most powerful and influential organization in human history.

In addition to maintaining a towering standard of excellence to which the rest of the industry aspires, The Onion supports more than 350,000 full- and part-time journalism jobs in its numerous news bureaus and manual labor camps stationed around the world, and members of its editorial board have served with distinction in an advisory capacity for such nations as China, Syria, Somalia, and the former Soviet Union. On top of its journalistic pursuits, The Onion also owns and operates the majority of the world’s transoceanic shipping lanes, stands on the nation’s leading edge on matters of deforestation and strip mining, and proudly conducts tests on millions of animals daily.

In the FAQ however there is this statement:

What if I want to sue The Onion?

Please do not do that. The First Amendment protects satire as a form of free speech and expression. The Onion uses invented names in all of its stories, except in cases where public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental. The Onion is not intended for readers under 18 years of age.