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So I Saw This Meme on the Internet…
How to evaluate political and current events news you see online
What did you see?
- Is it a meme shared on Facebook? These can be very entertaining, but they aren’t typically based on fact.
- Try Googling the information on the meme to see what websites come out to support or refute it.
- Is it a satire site such as The Onion or the Borowitz Report? Satire is a legitimate form of political commentary, but it isn’t meant to express the literal facts.
- Is it from a nonpartisan site such as politifact.com or snopes.com?
- Is it from a major newspaper such as the LA Times, New York Times, or Washington Post?
- Is more than one news source reporting on the event or issue, or just one?
- Can you find peer-reviewed journal articles or library books about the general topic? Even though these may not contain information on specific recent news items, you can get an idea of the context around an issue.
What should you look for?
- Verifiable facts and statistics, not rumors or wild claims. Just because it “sounds right” or seems to confirm something you already believe doesn’t mean it is actually true.
- Citing sources – just as you cite sources in your research papers, Internet news should do the same. If they don’t clearly state where they got their information, there is no evidence for it being correct.
- Who paid for or sponsored the content? If you can find out who supports it, you can see what viewpoint it is coming from.
- Does the website URL end in “lo” or “com.co”? These are usually not legitimate news sources.
- The website should have an “About Us” or similar tab to let you learn more about them.
- Who is the author? Is he or she a subject expert or a professional journalist? If not, or if you can’t find out who the author is, be careful about trusting the material.
- Try using an advance Google search to search only .gov or .edu