Fake news: four quick checks

Not everything we see online is truthful, but it can be hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction. To help, the UK Safer Internet Centre (SIC) has put together a few quick tips for young people to help them distinguish between the two when reading articles online.

Date 2017-06-29 Author UK Safer Internet Centre


  1. Who posted it?
  2. When was it posted?
  3. Why was it created?
  4. What is it saying?

Who posted it?
Who is the author? It should be easy to find who/what organisation is behind an article – is it a reliable organisation?

Can you trust them? Have you heard of them before? What else have they published? Check out the "About Us" section on their website, if they haven't got one you may question why. Can you find them on other sites?

You can also check if other mainstream news outlets or websites are reporting the same story – if they aren't, it doesn't necessarily mean it's not true, but it may mean that you should look into it further.

Generally, the more news websites that publish a story, the more likely it is to be true.

When was it posted?
Sometimes old news stories are shared on social media, either accidentally or to make it seem that something has happened recently.

It's always worth checking the date the article was published. If there is no date then you could try checking other news websites to see if the same story has been shared.

You can also search for the image caption or headline with Google to check if it has appeared before.

Why was it created?
Think about why the article has been created and how the creators might want you to think or behave.

There are a number of reasons why a fake article might be published. Sometimes it could be to change your beliefs about something, or to prompt an extreme reaction. Sometimes the aim might be to make money through getting lots of people to click on the link – these types of articles are often referred to as "clickbait". Other times it could be because the people who publish an article, bloggers, journalists etc. haven't checked the facts as thoroughly as they should.

This useful CBBC article about spotting fake news explains further about how to identify the different types of articles that may not be true.

Don't worry it's not always clear why something has been published. If you are still unsure then talk to a trusted adult about what you have read online.

What is it saying?
It is easy to create a story that looks realistic, but isn't actually true.

Check what the article is saying – has this been reported elsewhere? Are the facts accurate?

Are the images used actually from that story? Could the images have been edited or cropped to change what you can see?

Fact-checking sites like www.politifact.com or www.snopes.com enable you to check facts or fake news, while you can use Google Reverse Image Search to check an image.

Handy advice and resources about spotting fake news include:

  • Common Sense Media's article for parents: How to spot fake news (and teach kids to be media-savvy).
  • Trust Me: teaching resources from Childnet about critical thinking, propaganda and sorting fact from fiction.
  • CBBC quiz: Real or fake news? Take this quiz and see how good you are at spotting the difference.

This article was originally published on the UK Safer Internet Centre website and is reproduced here with permission.

Find out more about the work of the UK Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services.

Alternatively, find the contact details for your national Safer Internet Centre here.

Related news