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Bentley Magazine

fake news illustration

About three-quarters of Americans who say they follow news and current events agree that “fake news is a big problem,” according to a study by Deloitte in 2021.

What’s a careful reader to do? Assistant Professor of Mathematical Sciences Noah Giansiracusa shares strategies drawn from his expertise in areas such as machine learning and misinformation. 

Use a Rating Service  

Several organizations have sprung up to evaluate the quality of online news sites. While in principle these services could be biased or misleading themselves, finding one you trust is much easier than vetting news stories individually. My favorite one — NewsGuard —provides an overall rating and a detailed “nutrition label” for most news sites. 

Follow the Money 

News sites generally make money through either subscriptions or ads. The former, with paywalls and article limits, tend to be more reliable; they need you to feel satisfied with their product over the long term. Conversely, ad-funded sites are financially motivated to post content that draws in as many clicks as possible.   

Noah Giansiracusa
When you encounter a post that is spreading quickly, and doing so from user to user, be extra cautious about believing it.
Noah Giansiracusa
Assistant Professor of Mathematical Sciences

Be a Viral Skeptic  

Internal research leaked by the Facebook whistleblower in fall 2021 showed that posts with the most “deep reshares” among a chain of users are more likely to contain misinformation. Many academic studies also find that fake news travels faster and farther. So when you encounter a post that is spreading quickly, and doing so from user to user, be extra cautious about believing it.  

Find a Fact-Check 

We have not reached the point where algorithms can fully automate fact-checking — and probably never will. But they can help you find fact-checks written by a person. For example, if you include the words “fact check” in searching for a claim on Google, it will try to find professional fact-checker analyses of that claim.   

Question Captions   

A lot of information that spreads virally on social media comes in the form of images. One of the most common types of deception is also one of the simplest: a caption claims an image is something other than what it really is. To verify, plug the image into Google’s search bar. You’ll be able see where on the web that photo and others like it have appeared.   

Watch Noah’s Webinar on the Topic

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