[HOWTO] Stopping Fake News

Category: Social-Networking

Fake news stories are no joke; they can have serious real-world consequences. Every one of us has a responsibility to stop, think, and verify before hitting the “share” button. If we do not share fake news, it will die. Here are a few tips to help you spot fake news and avoid the embarrassment of spreading it…

Hey, Did You Hear…?

...about the 115-year-old woman who won a gold medal at the World Breakdancing Olympics? Are you outraged by the Fisher-Price "Happy Hour Playset" for toddlers, that comes with a fake bar, stools and beer bottles? Were you surprised when the Pope endorsed Donald Trump, or shocked by news of an illicit child-sex ring run by Clinton staffers?

Of course, all those stories are completely bogus. But the last one almost caused a fatal encounter, when an armed North Carolina man drove to Washington, DC, to “self-investigate” whether a pizza parlor had a basement full of abused children. He was arrested after firing an AR-15 round into the floor of the pizzeria. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Fake news is spread mainly ON Facebook and Twitter. Both social media platforms have pledged to do more to identify fake news and stop its spread. But fake news is not spread BY Facebook or Twitter. It’s spread by the human users of these services. Check out these tips to help you discern spot the bogus stories.

Fake News - Toddler Bar Set

Avoid sites whose names end with “lo” such as “Politicalo” or “Newslo.” They all belong to a network of sites that inject false “facts” and misleading interpretations into true stories, then distribute the poisoned fruits.

Domain names that end in “.com.co” are usually masquerading as legitimate sources. The same goes for “.com.cc” or any other “.com” name that has additional letters at its end.

If mainstream media is not reporting a story, it’s more likely that there is no story, than that the MSM does not want to report it. Be suspicious of any story that complains, “MAINSTREAM MEDIA IS IGNORING THIS!”

That's Outrageous!

Beware of headlines and body text that use lots of capitalized words. All-caps text stirs up angry, anxious emotions in readers, making them more inclined to share without thinking.

If a story is written in a tone of outrage, it is likely to make you very angry too. Take a deep breath and check the story’s claims via Google before sharing it.

The lack of a date, location, or author’s name in an article should move your BS-detector’s needle. If your BS-detector is missing or faulty, try the B.S. Detector browser plugin. It checks every page you visit, comparing the domain names to a database of domains belonging to unreliable or questionable news sources, and will alert you with a banner across the top of the page if what you’re reading is potentially bogus. Links are categorized as Fake News, Satire, Extreme Bias, Conspiracy Theory, Rumor Mill, Junk Science, Hate Group, Clickbait, and Proceed With Caution (sources that may be reliable but require further verification).

Check the comments left on a story, if any are available. You may find someone has already debunked or verified the story.

A picture has more emotional impact than 1,000 words, and pictures can be faked too. I detailed several ways to evaluate the authenticity of images in my article, Is That Picture Real? Google Image Search is your best tool for learning where else a given picture has appears.

Why Does Fake News Exist and Flourish?

You may wonder why so many fake news sites exist. For the most part, they are created for revenue-generation or propaganda. One prolific purveyor boasted that he made over $10,000 a month from ad revenues on his fake news sites. Some pundits believe that fake news influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections. But there was plenty of hogwash across the entire political spectrum, so I doubt that it tipped the scales either way. At least we'll have a break from that for a while.

I still remember my sixth grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Arnold. That's because she took us through a lengthy study on propaganda, and how to detect bias in the news. This was in the 1970s, long before the Internet. But a recent Stanford University study found that while middle schoolers and teens today navigate the digital world with ease, most lack the "digital literacy" skills to evaluate the accuracy or trustworthiness of information online.

Kids in their teens and twenties are not reading newspapers or watching television news. By and large, they get their information and worldview from what they see on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube. So it's no wonder they have trouble distinguishing fact from fiction, but the problem of digital literacy certainly extends into other age groups.

The bottom line here is due diligence. Don't share a story without checking its veracity. It seldom takes me more than ten seconds to verify or debunk a news story using Google. That’s ten seconds well spent to avoid contributing to the confusion that is damaging society online and off, and to avoid the embarrassment of being called out by my friends.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[HOWTO] Stopping Fake News"

(See all 67 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

10 Dec 2016

Response to evildoctor:
I have a lot of my own objections to Obama but please be specific about exactly how our current president "has diminished the US financially, militarily, constitutionally and culturally".

Since the time he took office in 2009:

Financially: Has the unemployment rate gone up from 4.6% to over 9%... or the opposite?
Has the business world suffered a DOW index going from 19,000 to 7,000...or the opposite?
Have cash reserves hoarded by US corporations dropped from all time highs... or the reverse?

Militarily: Has our president greatly increased the loss of American lives and wasteful expenditures by continuing to fight Bush's series of wars and Al Queda/ISIS battles (mistakes which Trump NOW agrees were disasters)....or the reverse?
Has he closed down Guantanamo as he wanted to do since 2008...or has he allowed it to keep running the last eight years?
Has he done nothing to fight terrorism...or has he used drones to kill people so often that he is criticized for it?
Did he stop caring about getting Osama Bin Laden (like Bush)...or did he get the guy, and without losing the lives of any of the brave men & women in our military?

Constitutionally: Has the president really pursued legislation or constitutional changes to take away your 2nd amendment guns ...or has he does nothing but back off, even under pressure by the families of shooting victims?
Has you own marriage been negated or diminished by the ability of same-sex couples to be married?...or have those couples simply been able to now enjoy some of the same benefits of being married that you have (presumably) always enjoyed?

Culturally: Did the number of people being deported drop precipitously...or have they far outnumbered those deported by any previous president?
Did Obamacare promptly bankrupt the US as promised by its opponents six years ago...or has it simply managed to cover vast numbers of people who previously had no insurance at all (despite compromises which were forced on the ACA to get it enacted, effectively making the current deductible increases inevitable?)

Has the Republican-dominated Congress passed legislation responsible for all the above...or has that Congress for years produced NO legislation that you personally can identify?

Unfortunately, you are going to absolutely deny the truth of all the above, with no explanation, and that is the REAL problem. (Mike Kracher's post is exactly right.) By continuing to listen to Sean Hannity and Rush you are doing yourself a great disservice.

Posted by:

10 Dec 2016

Brian Williams was the object of his own fake news that went unannounced for years. He claimed to come under fire in Iraq, remember ? So why do we allow them to continue pretending they are relevant ?
The airwaves they consume needs a public facelift.
Licenses need to be pulled, penalties imposed.
Why aren't we boycotting their advertisers until they cease to exist?

Posted by:

10 Dec 2016

To Kenneth Nelson, etc.: Have you any understanding of the role the Electoral College plays? Look at the votes: the anti-Trump voters won the country; the Electoral College didn't reflect the country's voting. The Electoral College is an antiquated system that should have been discarded years ago. The polls were by and large correct: anti-Trump. The voters at large did not want Trump. (I didn't want Hillary Clinton but even more so did not want Trump.)

Posted by:

Bunsen Honeydew
10 Dec 2016

BS detector is itself BS. It warns that the drudge report, a news aggregator , is unreliable.But it gives no warnings at all at sites like the dailykos, which is a far-left propaganda site.

Posted by:

10 Dec 2016

My, you have a lot of impressionable readers, Bob. Nobody believe anything except themselves.

Posted by:

10 Dec 2016

Snopes, the fact checker site, has added a 'Fake News' section. It is new and does not yet have a deep collection, but it is growing every day. See for yourself at:


Posted by:

Mike C.
11 Dec 2016

This won't stop emails with fake info from being circulated like Tom Hank's father (a cook) being the lead singer of the Canadian 1950's musical group, the Diamonds or that Target is a French-owned company that won't support our troops. The list goes on.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2016

Kevin: As you have perversely interjected an extensive political rant into an Internet tech forum, I felt it necessary to correct the historical record.

The unemployment figures, which are not credible, do not account for full-time workers who have been demoted to part time employment because of Obamacare. Not to mention that so many of the unemployed have given up looking for work that the percentage of the population participating in the labor force is lower than it has been in thirty years. They are not counted in the official numbers.

But you are correct in saying that corporations and the wealthy have prospered in the last 8 years. In fact, only the top decile has seen an increase in their income, while the bottom 90% have regressed. This is a breathtaking accomplishment for Obama’s trickle-down policies. Only without the trickle-down part.

Our military posture has declined while our enemies are stronger. The Middle East is roiling, almost certainly necessitating an eventual American response. Iran has been given the green light to develop a nuclear bomb, while Russian and Chinese aggression have not been effectively countered.

Islamic terrorism is on the rise, both nationally and internationally, with Obama refusing to even identify it properly. As for American military losses, Obama promised to end Bush’s foreign wars. But Americans are still dying in Afghanistan and Iraq, and ,now, Syria.

Constitutionally, Obama has operated as if the document never existed. With his pen and his phone, he has effectively repealed laws passed by Congress (welfare reform), implemented laws rejected by Congress (the Dream Act), and changed the provisions of laws (Obamacare).

The institution of marriage has been diminished by recognizing same-sex couples. The foreign countries and American states that have done so have seen a counterintuitive acceleration in the decline of the marriage rate.

But your accusation that Obama has callously deported unprecedented numbers of illegals struggling to feed their hungry families is false. Indeed, why would he since he views them as potential (or actual) Democrat voters. The regime counts those stopped from illegally entering the country as deportees, and the Obama economy is so bad that self-deportation has significantly increased.

Obamacare and other policies have contributed toward eventual bankruptcy, with Obama almost doubling the national debt. This would have been worse except that the Republican congress refused to cooperate with Obama and the Democrats, instead insisting on shutting down the government so that the sequester went into effect.

Speaking of Obamacare, the percentage of Americans who have health insurance is about the same as a decade ago, but healthcare costs have skyrocketed. Although there are many contenders, Obama’s lies about this policy may be the most egregious of his entire presidency.

You are so misinformed one can only conclude that you spend too much time visiting fake news sites. May I recommend you listen to Rush and Sean as an antidote?

Posted by:

11 Dec 2016

I, too, have long lamented how politics creeps in on Bob's Tech forum. You ignored the three pages of posts preceding mine, most of which were partisan complaints with little (or faulty) information to support them. THOSE were the posts that perversely injected politics unnecessarily and you could have objected to them. In any event, I finally felt that they required a reasoned response. Note that I stated up front that I have major problems with Obama's conduct which are actually more grave and consequential than those he is unfairly picked on by the Fox News machine. These have to do with lack of transparency, gross incompetence in communicating realities to the American public, neglect for human rights worldwide, and secret government intrusion into our lives (why are the so-called libertarian conservatives so quiet about THAT?)

I appreciate that your calm reply to mine was similarly in the spirit of clarity and reasoning. Since neither of us wants to go back & forth much further on this forum (and I don't want to do that anywhere else either) I will just clarify why we may simply "have to disagree" and move on. Though you made better effort than the others to rationally support your position, I say you rely on certain unfounded or misleading claims.

Obamacare and the Employment issue are both complicated in themselves, let alone examined together. The reason some are not looking for work is testament to the economic disaster that hit in 2008. That was a direct result of an economy controlled by Wall Street and the Republicans under Bush, not Obama.


The definition of full-time employment for purposes of Obamacare has only dropped from 35 hours to 30 hours. And here is what another not-exactly-leftist site (Forbes) says about the larger issue:


You and I agree that corporations and the top earners are doing just fine while all the rest of us suffer. (I don't believe 90% have actually "regressed" in real dollars but your point is taken.) Obama has not done enough to reverse that but do you think his opponents have been helping him on that issue or have they been fighting every effort from the start, whether it concerns taxes for corporations and the wealthy, or moderately increasing the minimum wage?

On the issues of military and terrorism, a correct chronology would show that fingers should be pointed elsewhere but there is too much to go into (unless you really want to). We agree that the wars should never have been started and American lives should no longer be lost (though it seems you're saying we must intervene yet again?) Even in 1991, I said to let Sadaam's Arab neighbors deal with his invasion of Kuwait themselves. Obama wages war now mostly by remote control, but the tide is turning in ISIS territory. Can't we drop the petty issue about him being too cautious to stress an entire religion itself when referring to terrorists?

What is the actual constitutional provision that you could say a Federal court somewhere has ruled was violated by Obama? Your complaint is really about Executive Orders. FWIW, only two of the previous eight presidents issued fewer Executive Orders than Obama. (Of the eight, Reagan issued the most.)

I'll touch on the remaining issues we were discussing shortly, in a second post.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2016

“If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're mis-informed.” ― Mark Twain

"Listen to everyone, read everything, believe nothing unless you can prove it in your own research" - William Cooper

The following is from Congressman Ron Paul's website "The Real Fake News List"


Posted by:

Joseph Kiron
11 Dec 2016

Where to begin? Yes there are plenty folks making money or simply getting a kick out of putting out garbage and the internet makes it easy. But I must take exception to an uncharacteristic (to my mind) remark by dear Bob "If mainstream media is not reporting a story, it’s more likely that there is no story, than that the MSM does not want to report it." No Bob there are indeed many many things MSM prefers to ignore or simply lie about. Anybody who doubts this is welcome to come to Israel and see how totally different the place is from the MSM take. Or read the story about the arrest of Oleg Atbashian in democratic America on charges which may put him away for longer than might have happened in his native USSR, for what? For trying to tell the truth on campus. Today's word according to Oxford University is "post-truth". I would prefer to stick with the older version. I could go on but most of you are probably not reading this anyway.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2016

Kevin:I ignored the other similar posts and responded to yours as its politicizing was lengthy and specific enough so that it lent itself to easy refutation.

You criticize Obama for “gross incompetence in communicating realities to the American public”. Do you mean that he is not as skillful a liar as Bill Clinton? As for libertarian conservatives, they are not quiet, but far too critical of some “secret government intrusion” under Obama, such as the NSA collection of communications metadata.

So the bad economy is still Bush’s fault. Are you sure it’s not Reagan’s fault, or Herbert Hoover’s? Your Business Insider reference contains a graph showing that the only steep, prolonged decline in the labor force participation rate since 1970 has occurred under Obama. A look at the civilian labor force participation rate of 25-54 year-olds discounts the effect of retiring baby boomers:


A graph in the above posting shows the only decline since 1950 was under Obama. Why were the negative effects of Bush’s policies only seriously felt during the Obama “recovery”?

That the unemployment figures are misleading and not really indicative of the health of the economy can be ascertained by taking a closer look at employment: The graph on this page shows that only last year did the number of full-time employees equal the peak that was reached during the Bush years:


Also, the average hours worked per worker per year has continued to decline under Obama:


Thus, it is not surprising that median income has declined under Obama, a statistic reported, I believe, even in the fake news sites that you consult.

Your Forbes reference (Forbes, BTW, is even more fair and balanced than the Fox News Machine as it has many leftist contributors) purports to look at Obamacare’s effect on health care costs. Yet it only considers employer paid insurance and Medicare, ignoring the Obamacare exchanges and Medicaid, where many of the new enrollees had the misfortune of being placed. The article does refer in passing to the increase in part time workers because of Obamacare, my point that you have missed. And the BLS recently reported that health care jobs have increased 1.5 times faster than general employment, which will lead to greater increases in healthcare costs.

The problem is not that Obama has not done enough to reverse inequality. The only clear cut pronounced increase in inequality has occurred under him (although I’m sure it’s Bush’s fault). Before Obama, the rich got richer, but so did all other income groups. It wasn’t even clear that inequality was increasing, as the data were mixed and ambivalent. The Obama record is crystal clear. As Obama admitted a couple years ago, 95% of the income gains have gone to the top 1%. What he didn’t say was that the other 5% of net gains went to the rest of the top 10% in income. More than any other president, even more than Clinton, Obama is the president of the wealthy.

And no, we don’t agree that wars should never be started. I maintain that no president should ignore the advice of all of his military advisors and throw away a military victory already achieved just to spite his predecessor. And the nature of the enemy and his motivation is not a “petty issue”, but an understanding of him is essential in defeating him.

There is a minor “Constitutional provision” called Article I which gives the legislative authority to Congress alone. Therein lies many of Obama’s Constitutional transgressions. If you did not restrict yourself to liberally biased news sources, you might see through the fake statistic about executive orders. Obama’s overreach has usually come via executive memoranda, the difference being that a memorandum does not require a legal justification, while an executive order does. If you didn’t rely on fake news sources, you might also know that Obama has suffered more 9-0 Supreme Court decisions reversing his unconstitutional executive actions than any other president

Rush and Sean will be back on the air tomorrow.

Posted by:

12 Dec 2016

It would help if we all kept to a strict definition of "fake NEWS" as being a distinct news "story" which is imaginary and deliberately made-up, such as reports (like Pizzagate, or phony chain-letter claims) that are presented in such a way as to fool as many people as possible. Opinion pieces, analysis, and ordinary reportage should NOT be tarred with the same epithet, even though they are inherently affected by people's biases. Like science and everything else in life, nothing is as simple, or black & white, as we think.

Posted by:

Joseph Kiron
12 Dec 2016

I second that Kevin

Posted by:

12 Dec 2016

It claims to work both on chrome and opera
and yet on win 7 with opera (and no chrome broswer) the link take me only to a chrome installation page not to the BS-Detector install page

Posted by:

W. Chilton
14 Dec 2016

Ah come on, we've always been subject to fake news long before the digital age. It was on every magazine rack and on TV. Now it's being talked about because the lying press failed to usher in a miserable malicious mendacious mook who made millions faking her way through life. What is being called fake news appeals to the educated stupid instead of yellow journalism especially because of the jaundiced reporting about a sociopath.

Posted by:

Marc Holman
15 Dec 2016

It seems to me that an inordinate amount of attention has been paid to this unfortunate pizza-gate incident. It has been used to paint the entire independent media with a broad brush.

However, most of the genuine fake news out there is found on the "respectable" mainstream networks and papers - MSNBC, NBC, ABC, FOX, Washington Post, New York Times, etc.

The United States government has been in the business of spreading fake news propaganda in foreign nations since at least the end of world war II. A congressional committee ( the church committee ) was convened in 1975 to address the issue of illegal CIA interference with domestic media. During the Gulf Wars I and II fake news items were planted, for example, in the Australian or English media and then picked up by domestic sources.

In 2013 the Obama administration made internal propaganda legal. This is all easily verified.

The damage done by fake news in the mainstream media outweighs any harm the independent ( and generally more truthful ) could do by several orders of magnitude. Yet where is the focus on these especially egregious instances, some of which have cost HUNDRED OF THOUSANDS, EVEN MILLIONS OF LIVES:






The list goes on. Fake news - called propaganda by those who know its nothing new, is a red herring.

The answer to propaganda is not restriction of speech as certain parties are proposing ( notably now, when it is convenient for them ). The answer is MORE freedom of speech.

Posted by:

Marc Holman
15 Dec 2016

I'm sorry - I just have to interject this here. With respect to Snopes: Beware all self-proclaimed ministries of truth. Just do an experiment. Visit Snopes and snoop around looking for subjective judgments, errors in logic, meaningless statements.... you'll find plenty.

The best bullsh*t detector is a well read brain exposed to constant discussion. I'm very surprised in you Bob. It's disappointing to see you push this BS BS detector browser plugin because you typically exercise a fine mind in your reviews. My apologies for the double comment.

Posted by:

Joe Chip
16 Dec 2016

Wow, nice to find this sort of web-smalltown with seemingly literate people where the discourse has not yet been poisoned.

That said, I just want to pose a few questions to various ideas put forth both by Bob and other responders. This coming from a person, I hope you will recognize, to be just as plain-thinking, skeptical, logical, and un-emotional as Bob and perhaps yourself.

1. Bravo Mrs. Arnold! For teaching 70's kids to detect bias. Not everyone was as lucky, I had to live through those years fat dumb happy . . . and remember we only had 3 channels and one newspaper in most places. Compare to the attention assault today. I have an 18- and 15-year old. So Stanford study says either they or their peers lack discernment? To an extent I agree, and that extent corresponds exactly with how much we legitimize the construct of "Mainstream" media. Question: Is it possible that their seeming lack of discernment is because they discern better than we? How ridiculous does our "safe to trust" media appear to them? Do we take things for granted that they don't? The best liars tell the truth most of the time. The worst ones are easy to spot.

2. Regardless of your political polarity (I can't swing enthusiastically either way), definitely do take the risk to actually visit some of these scary "fake" news sites, regardless of headline, those which link to the actual Wikileaks emails, especially the Podesta ones. Has anyone read these? Forget the lurid stuff, though that is damning enough. Is anyone suspicious that the levels of corruption, pay for play, and other things you can read for yourself right in wikileaks; that these are un-commented on by our safe media, while anything silly or misconstrued is loudly reported? Compare this to the treatment given the also unlawfully acquired "Pentagon Papers," if anyone remembers that.

3. What about, for example, the background of Huma Abedin? The beautiful girl who when she was about the age of my son (18), seemingly out of a fairy-tale she was lofted from her Saudi Arabian life to the side of First Lady Clinton, where she remained. Even for the privileged aristocracy this seems exceptional. I'm sure there is some legit-from-their-viewpoint explanation and some safe news articles here and there to legitimize it. But to the average person this seems to beg explanation and exposition, i.e. plain language: "please tell me loudly there is really nothing wrong with this person-who-would-run-the-White House." But reasonable people will agree that this story wasn't told many times or very loudly, except by the "fake" news rogues. Try this rogue "Abby Martin on Huma Abedin" if you dare.

4. Bob: With respect, I still must ask, why would I want myself or ANYONE to edit their news with an editorial board consisting of an anonymous browser plugin, as reasonable as that seems on the face of it. I have probably learned from you some of the behind the scenes of plugins, extensions, etc. . . Shirley you are joking?

5. Not a question but an appeal to common sense: There is very little good reason for the widespread trust of snopes.com. Unfortunately you have to waste many hours over the years (since the late '90s) reading this trusted "authority" . . . before the gestalt of it hits you.

Respect, Joe Chip

Posted by:

Al Jankowski
18 Dec 2016

"Domain names that end in “.com.co” are usually masquerading as legitimate sources. The same goes for “.com.cc” or any other “.com” name that has additional letters at its end."

It is common for foreign sites to place the 2-digit national identifier at the end of its name. For example: ABC.COM.AU will take you to ABC.NET.AU which is the site of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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