Misinformation, Disinformation, and Bias

Identifying misinformation, its various types, and both personal and news media biases

Four Moves...

The SIFT Method was developed by University of Washington research scientist and instructor Mike Caulfield. SIFT stands for: 

  • Stop. 
  • Investigate the Source. 
  • Find Better Coverage. 
  • Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context. 

Wayne State University Libraries produced a short video going through the SIFT Method.

...And a Habit

In addition to practicing the SIFT method, it is highly recommended to get in the habit of checking your emotions while verifying claims on the internet. 

Misinformation relies heavily on exploiting our emotions in order to spread. Stories and videos that elicit a strong emotional response (happiness, awe, anger, vindication, etc.) are the ones that tend to go viral.

If you feel a strong emotional reaction upon seeing a post and feel compelled to share a "fact" with others or use it as a source for a paper, STOP. Are you choosing/sharing the source because you have strong feelings about its content? If so, it is even more important to investigate the source to verify its reliability. 

Lateral Reading

Lateral reading refers to the act of searching beyond a web page. Before investing your time in a web source, use the tabs across the top of your web browser to perform various web searches to investigate the author and organization, verify details and information, and assess the credibility of the source by gaining additional context. 

Here are some examples of ways you might search laterally:

  • Search for the author or organization publishing the source
  • Use keywords to learn about the source's topic from other sources
  • Verify quotes – Did the person being quoted actually say that?
  • If the source has citations, look at what is being cited and compare what is being said
  • Identify the political or commercial motivations of companies who might advertise or sponsor content on the source's webpages – Who is funding the source?

Click Restraint

Click restraint refers to examining the URLs and website descriptions to determine whether a source is relevant, rather than simply clicking on the first link in the search results. This is an important skill to practice, as the first few links on the first page of search results are often advertisements.

How to Evaluate News Sources

Evaluating News screenshotEvaluating News Sources This interactive lesson explores news sources - particularly, strategies that you can use to evaluate them. Consider these questions: What qualifies as news? Is all content published by a news agency really news? How does geography influence news coverage? What strategies should I use when evaluating news?


How to Spot Fake News below, from IFLA, has tips for evaluating news. Also see PDF version.

How to spot fake news infographic

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