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U of T library posts guide to spotting fake news

Website offers tips for truth-seekers in an era of fake news, alternative facts and confirmation bias.


A recent study (PDF) by researchers at Stanford University in the U.S. found that more than 7,800 students in 12 states couldn’t distinguish real from fake news. With non-factual news and what White House adviser Kellyanne Conway has called “alternative facts” circulating on social media, librarians at the University of Toronto have developed an online guide to help students spot the fake stuff.

The guide, developed by Heather Buchansky and Eveline Houtman, provides credible news sources, a list of myth-debunking websites (such as and PolitiFact), a reading list on the fake news phenomenon and a checklist for analyzing a story’s credibility.

The guide is geared towards the U of T community but the librarians expect it could find a larger audience. “I think people across the spectrum can get sucked in … [because] one of the things that happens with fake news is confirmation bias,” explains Ms. Houtman. “You’re more likely to believe something if it reinforces your prior beliefs.”

Though the recent spike of fake news has largely been tied to the 2016 U.S. presidential election and its aftermath, Ms. Houtman cautions that Canadians are not immune. “We do have to be watchful and we have to come up with ways to talk about this with students that would really go beyond the obvious.”

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  1. R. Craigen / April 5, 2017 at 19:17

    It’s interesting that the three “fact-checking” sites listed in this resource (FactCheck, Snopes, PolitiFact) all have well-known political biases and have been caught both burying stories and spinning stories out of line., for example, commonly gives a “mostly false” rating to a story in which a conservative will relate so-and-so “said that” with an accurate paraphrase of someone’s comment. They justify the rating on the basis that “so-and-so did not use those actual words”. Uh … it’s a paraphrase?
    On the other side, Leftist personalities will “quote” conservatives inaccurately and be rated “mostly true” on the basis that, while the words are wrong, in the judgement of the PolitiFact writer the speaker captured the meaning. Sorry, that’s not “fact checking” — that’s political spin.

    Snopes has been caught using outright falsehoods in its fact-checks and either does not correct or simply “disappears” the error if its nature is of the sort that would reveal a political bias. They are quite happy to publish corrections of politically neutral errors.

    Another practice of is to simply fail to give coverage to controversial issues and stories that put the leftist narrative at a disadvantage. Try to find a fact-check of any of Susan Rice’s notorious falsehoods on their site; they acknowledge her existence, but apparently Ms Rice, the Designated liar for the Obama regime, is immune from scrutiny on their site.

    Currently, in fact, Susan Rice’s story appears to have the potential to blow a big hole in the credibility of the leftist narrative about the outgoing and incoming presidential regimes. At issue are a number of factual assertions she has made in public over the past year, including some in recent television interviews. You’d think that would be a like a red flag to a bull for the fact checkers … uh, nope. Try to find ANYTHING about Rice on Snopes during this period. You’ll find a few stories in which she is incidentally mentioned but no breakdown of her claims against subsequently aired factual information.

    Searching Snopes just now for her yields this “fact-check” of the business of the numerous Democratic Party personnel with media connections and vice versa
    The whole story reads like a spin piece.

    Sorry, “fake news”, if it has any meaning left, must also consist of media manipulation that presents itself under the banner of “fact-checking”. In fact, such sources must be held to a HIGHER standard. And no directory of this type which lists only sources on one side of the political aisle can be regarded as unimpeachable.

    Caveat emptor