How to Identify Fake News: Strategies to Separate CRAAP from Fact
Strategies to confront the 24/7 news cycle that presents conflicting facts.
We don’t accept candy from a stranger, but we will believe anyone with a microphone, every post on Facebook, each printed article, and the guy in the grocery storyline.
Social isolation creates a craving for information.
As citizens restricted to our homes, we possess unlimited time to absorb reports from media and find ourselves bombarded with inaccurate information.
We are accepting the good with the bad, the real with the fake, and society is becoming poisoned as a result.
We need to stop freely accepting the sweet, tempting, tidbits of information and begin to methodically scrutinize sources prior to accepting them as factual, fair or honest.
We must scrutinize the news just as we question the stranger on the street offering candy.
Apply the CRAAP Test
When consumers apply the CRAAP test as we ingest the messages we encounter daily, the process of separating facts from fiction will inherently develop.
CRAAP is an acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. It is a strategy to separate the crap from the fact.
Currency: The timeliness of the information
The transparency of the internet’s algorithms is foggy. When searching with a keyword, the first result may be outdated, thus, providing information that is obsolete, inaccurate or simply false. Scan through the results to identify the most current.
- The publishing and posting date
- If revisions exist
- If links function as intended
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs
Check for a direct relationship to your question and that the response is appropriate to your needs. For instance, if the intended audience is elementary students versus scientist, the presentation will vary.
- The depth and breadth of the information
- If support exists elsewhere (Be leery of facts found on only one site.)
- The intended audience
Authority: The source of the information
Anyone can publish an article, host a website or add material to an existing page on the internet (i.e. Wikipedia).
- The author, publisher, source, and sponsor
- Author’s credentials and organization’s affiliations
- Contact information such as publisher or email
- Accurate URL: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content
Too often the public believes if material is printed and published, it must be accurate. This is false. In an age of technology that allows everyone to self-publish, the reader owns the responsibility to assess accuracy.
- Original source of information
- Other sources that support the evidence (The speaker of a quote should appear other places. Data should be similar and consistent in all sources.)
- If personal knowledge supports the facts
- Biases exist (News should use language that is free of emotion. Accusing tones, tendencies to blame, and attacking qualities tend to be gossip.)
- Accuracy of writing skills. Spelling, grammar, and typographical error are often signal fake news
Purpose: The reason the information exists
When questioned the purpose of the writer will shed light on the value of the text.
- The intention: inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
- The objective. What does the author hope to accomplish and how will she benefit?
- The purpose: political? ideological, cultural, religious, institutional? personal?
- The point of view: objective? impartial?
- The facts from the opinions
Note: all credit for the CRAAP test goes to the librarians who developed it at CSU Chico.
This YouTube video provides a review of strategies to spot fake news. It is sponsored by FactCheck.org
The CRAAP test requires a person to investigate information and not accept “news” as fact. This is time intensive but necessary.
Remember the guy on the corner offering candy? He will disguise himself as a man in a suit behind a podium spouting information, a busty blonde flashing a smile and speaking false facts, a post on Facebook that has gone viral, and websites demanding attention because they have the truths.
Fake news has the ability to poison your mind — readers beware.
Resources to Fact Check
- FactCheck.org® is a Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center that debunks false stories. When unsure, check for accuracy. On this site you may also submit questions and if they have not already been addressed, answers will be researched.
- PolitiFact states on their website, “Our core principles are independence, transparency, fairness, thorough reporting and clear writing. The reason we publish is to give citizens the information they need to govern themselves in a democracy.” They examine the accuracy of a statement and provide readers with specific responses using their “Truth-O-Meter” which explains to what degree information is correct.
- Snopes defines themselves as, “the internet’s go-to source for discerning what is true and what is total nonsense.” They investigate all subjects and areas of question.
Many people and organizations attempt to influence and manipulate the thoughts of others. This provides them power over decisions and outcomes in the world, often benefiting them.
Becoming an informed citizen, requires logical thinking, engaged reading, a questioning mind, and a desire for truth. Find the truths around you by being an active, informed consumer of the news.