Can you spot the fake news?

By Allison Reibel - Guest Commentary

With headlines designed to capture our attention and websites paid based on page views, we live in an information landscape that can feel dangerous and untrustworthy.

 A recent study by researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education titled "Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning," found that young people have trouble evaluating the credibility of online information. 

Although young people spend a lot of time online, they are often not able to identify sponsored content or potential biases in what they are reading, according to the Stanford study. 

The good news is that there is a lot of good information. And with the right skills, you can make evaluations about what to trust.

At the Highline library, we have created a guide for evaluating news, social media, and other online sources. 

The guide is intended to help you determine the credibility of information and sources, and also to supply users with best practices for searching and reading articles. 

You can view it online at

One thing to be aware of is the type of information you are looking at. The library at John Hopkins University breaks information into four categories in their guide for evaluating information:

Information: Information is usually what we are seeking. It tells us something or communicates something to us.

Propaganda: Propaganda is commonly misused and misunderstood. While propaganda may be based on fact, it is biased and presented in a self-serving way. It is often used to promote a person or idea, without being explicit about its intentions.

Misinformation: Misinformation is information that is not true, but is not deliberately untrue. When someone you know shares a meme on social media, they may be inadvertently spreading false information. This is misinformation because, while it is not true, it is spread by mistake rather than by design.

Disinformation: Fake news is disinformation. Its intention is to mislead and it is doing so knowingly. It is knowingly not based on fact.

If you aren't sure about the intentions of the site or writer, or whether what they're saying is accurate, there are tools that can help. 

Websites like and are dedicated to checking and proving (or disproving) rumors, political speeches, and viral stories. 

There is also a Google Chrome extension that, when added to your browser, will alert you if you are on a site known for posting fake news. 

As with any information need, we encourage all of our campus community to come see us in the library in Building 25. You can also call us at 206-592-3232 during open hours or contact us via chat 24/7. 

We are here for you and happy to help.                                    

Allison Reibel is a Highline reference librarian.

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