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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

How to spot fake news

Use these 10 tips to help you spot fake news before you share it.

1. Read more than the headline

Clickbait titles can misrepresent the facts or situation, misleading you.

2. Check your biases

Ask yourself: Do I believe the story because it confirms my worldview?

3. Consider the publication

Read the about page. Are they a blog or a professional outlet? What is their mission?

4. Research the author

Do they have experience that would give them an informed viewpoint?

5. Click the links

Click on hyperlinks in the story to check if their initial sources are trustworthy.

6. Is anybody else reporting it?

Large stories are picked up by multiple outlets. If nobody else is reporting, it may not be real.

7. Is it a joke?

Stories posted on satirical websites can be mistaken for actual stories.

8. Look at the date

Fake news sites will distort real world events by claiming they happened at a different time.

9. Examine the URL

Fake news sites may use URLs that closely resemble actual sources to trick you.

For example:   REAL:     FAKE:

10. Do a reverse image search

Pictures can be taken from real news stories. Search the internet for images in a story to see if they are actually tied to a different event. 

How to Flag Fake News Online

Learning how to identify fake news so you don't share it  yourself is the first line of defense in stopping the spread of false information. The next step is knowing how to flag fake news when you see it  online so it can be either:

  • Labeled as fake to warn others on the internet, or
  • Moved lower in search results

Use the quick guides below to learn how you can report fake news on Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

How to Report Fake News on Facebook

To fight the spread of misinformation, Facebook allows you to report fake news stories. Flagged news stories are sent to third parties, such as Snopes or AP, who fact check the story's claims. If it is found to be false, Facebook puts a warning label on the story.

If you see fake news on Facebook:

  • Click on the three dots on the top right corner of the post and select "Report post."
  • Select "It's a false news story."
  • Click on "mark this post as false news."
  • BONUS! You can also message the person who posted the fake news story to start a conversation letting them know you think it is false, and why.

How to Report Fake News on Google

Google is a powerful tool for information amplification, for better or for worse. Reporting Fake News on Google can help cut it off at the root.

If you see fake news on Google.

  • On the bottom of the page, click on “Send feedback."
  • Write a statement explaining that you are reporting a fake news story.
  • Use their screenshot addition to highlight exactly which link you are reporting.
  • Hit "send" to submit your report.

How to Report Fake News on Twitter

Twitter does not have a direct option to report fake news. Here's what you can do instead.

If you see fake news on Twitter.

  • Click on the arrow in the corner, then "Report Tweet"
  • Select either "Spam" or "This is abusive or harmful."

The tweet will be sent to Twitter for review.

10 Tips to Spot a Twitter Bot

Robots are changing what we talk about on Twitter.

Twitter bots are Twitter accounts run by computer software rather than actual people. Because they are automated, these accounts can blast out tweet after tweet much faster than people. A large group of Twitter bots, called a “botnet,” can be programmed to all tweet about one topic at once, flooding real users’ twitter feeds. Botnets have been known to send out so many tweets the hashtags they’re utilizing trend.

Botnet blasts distort reality. A few people can amplify their viewpoints or agendas through hundreds of accounts, making it look like a large number of people think a certain way. Those running a botnet can time this distortion to influence political discourse by sending out thousands of tweets at politically tense times, such as after presidential debates or political protests./ Not only does this alter how issues are perceived, it is an important tool in spreading fake news. Individuals and organizations who speak out on Twitter about these bots have been known to become targets of botnet attacks, which aim to intimidate them or get their twitter account banned for bot-like activity.

Here are 10 quick tips to identify a bot so they can’t fool you:

1. High levels of activity

Bots produce tweets far faster than people can. Scroll through the account’s twitter feed. Do they tweet more than 50 times a day? Do they send out lots of tweets very close together?

2. Accounts have little to no personal information

Real people often have their hometown, or a link to other social media profiles. An account lacking that sort of identification may not be an actual person.

3. Mostly retweets, few to no original tweets

Retweeting is faster than producing original tweets, even for bots. This allows them to flood twitter feeds even faster, and increase the popularity of tweets produced by other bots.

4. The same profile picture as several other accounts.

Since Twitter Bots are not real people, they need to take a picture from somewhere in order to have have a profile picture. Makers of bots will sometimes save time by using the same image for numerous bots. If you right click on the Twitter profile picture, you can select “Do a Reverse Image Search.” This will run the image through Google Image Search to see if it finds similar images. If the results of your search show the image is the profile picture of many different twitter accounts, it’s likely the account is a bot.

5. A large number of their followers do not have a profile picture

Many bots don’t have profile pictures at all, and bots tend to follow each other. If an account has a lot of followers without profile pictures, this indicates it is followed by many bots. That could mean it is a bot and part of a botnet.

6. Name and handle are based on different names.

To save time when making a lot of bots, creators will sometimes randomly generate names. This can lead to a complete mismatch between the name of the supposed person and their twitter handle. For example, the user may be named Rebecca Michaelson, and their handle is @KeithRivkin353.

7. Many of posts are advertisements

Real people don’t typically use their twitter feed to promote a lot of different products.

8. Account retweets in many languages

Are there tweets in English, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, and Chinese? It's unlikely one person constantly tweets in that variety of languages.

9. The lists of users who retweeted and liked the tweet are nearly identical

Bots following other bots are often programmed to like and retweet the same tweets. this produces near identical like/retweet lists human use does not produce.    

10. Some tweets are complete gibberish.

Does one tweet read “cantwaitforfridaythrowbacknewspoliticskitten”? That's probably a bot.


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