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Communication: Confirmation Bias, Filter Bubbles and Fake News

Basic search tips and strategies for communication students

Information Has Value

Information Has Value

"Information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world."

Framework for Information Literacy, Association of College & Research Libraries, 2016.

Spotting Fake News

IFLA: International Federation of Library Associations

All Sides News Feed

Trust Levels in News Sources

Points to Ponder as You Read or Listen to News

Fake news is not a new problem. It's been around for centuries.

What is new is the way it is spread and consumed.  The Internet and different social media apps affect the way many people in the US access and use news. Today, news is reported in real time, sometimes even as an incident is unfolding.  

The purpose of news is to inform and challenge your thoughts about a topic. 

What is fake news?

  • Authentic material used in the wrong context 
  • Imposter news sites designed to look like brands we already know
  • Fake news sites
  • Fake information 
  • Manipulated content 
  • Parody content

Signs to look for:

  • does the story trigger an emotional response such as anger?
    • real news gives facts and information that can be easily investigated and verified
  • do links in the story lead to other legitimate news sites or information?
  • is an author and their credentials listed?
    • who sponsors the webpage?
  • is there a publication date?
    • is it billed as "Breaking News" and not visible on other websites from other publishers and authors?
  • does the information agree with what you already believe?
    • it should be rare to have everything in a news story to line up with your personal beliefs 100% of the time
  • is credible evidence presented that supports the story's claims?
    • is scientific data, original photos, documents given?
    • are photos or videos manipulated or accurate?

Filter Bubbles

  • Google, Facebook and other online resources use algorithms to filter the information that you see in your newsfeeds or as a result your search terms.  Because you use the same device repeatedly, it begins to "know" you and your preferences.  For instance if you consistently like or visit pages that demonstrate you are an animal lover, that will become a part of the algorithm that filters what you see. This can lead to confirmation bias.

Confirmation Bias

  • Information that fits our ideas and beliefs is easy and pleasurable.  Information that challenges us to think in new and different ways or causes us to question our assumptions is difficult and frustrating. However, in order to advance knowledge, various points of view need to be considered and a logical analysis made.

Click Bait

  • Online content intended to lure readers to click links and visit websites.  Usually sites that make money for the number of visitors visiting their page.  

Fact Checkers

  • Check out the websites listed in the box below.  These sites are dedicated to stopping the spread of fake news with solid facts.

Things you can do to cut through the Fake to the Real News:

  • Be well informed about current events
    • Watch and read news presented from multiple viewpoints on a variety of platforms (TV, Internet, social media, etc.)
  • Don't accept news stories at face value; always verify
    • Don't share a story that you haven't double-checked first


Crate, L., (2017). Fake news vs. real news. Education Digest, 83(1), 4-7.

Spratt, H.E, and Agosto, D.E., (2017). Fighting fake news: Because we all deserve the truth. Young Adult Library Services, 15(4), 17-21.

Acosta, E. "Keepin It Real: Tips and Strategies for Evaluating Fake News." CORA (Community of Online Research Assignments), 2017.

Websites to Debunk Fake News