America has always been awash in dubious information. Thinking about Americans affronted by liars on the Internet takes me deep into the cliche mine where Captain Renault is "shocked" there is gambling in Rick's establishment.
But social media has enabled fake news to spread more quickly. Before accepting everything that shows up in your newsfeed at face value, and more importantly, before automatically sharing it yourself, there are a few things to consider.
Fact-checking websites are one place to start. Generally speaking though, you want to do the following:
Consider the source. Who wrote it? Who published it? What sources are cited to support the story? Are the sources credible? When was it originally published? Is it satire?
Read beyond the headline. What's the whole story?
I use a few online-only sites for analysis and opinion, but they are not set up to dig for news. For that, the best source remains the online versions of reporting agencies -- newspapers, magazines and major broadcast outlets. It may well be that some online entity will get a scoop before the big folks do, but it's the news outlets' job to see if it is real or fake news. This is no guarantee that any one of them is always right; I spent more than 20 years writing for newspapers, and I know we got things wrong sometimes. But intentional fakery in regular news outlets is extremely rare and is punished severely when discovered.
Still, to get it as close to right as you can, you need to use at least three reliable news sources, perhaps from different editorial directions. A reliable news source will avoid fake news, but editorial judgment will vary. Whichever news source you prefer, checking the facts reported in at least two other reputable sources will make it easier for you to verify the accuracy of the story.
Even with these, however, be careful to look for actual news articles and not the cheesy ads that pretend to be news. Here are sites from factcheck.org and the news literacy project that help you detect fake news. One tip is to examine the url; if it looks like a news site but ends with .com.co, then look at it more carefully. It's probably one of those sites that just make up shocking headlines in hopes you will click on them.
You will eventually notice that many credible websites will ask you to pay up if you want full access. Do it if you can. Their advertising alone is not enough. Newspapers in particular need your subscriptions to keep doing the reporting that gives you something beyond fake news and whatever the alternative facts of the day are.
Evan - Married, three children, two grandchildren, formerly a newspaper journalist, now a public librarian, at all times a board game nut.