Sources Unknown: Fact Checking

Submitted by Anonymous on Sat, 02/11/2017 - 11:11 AM

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln with a quote that he didn't say, 'Don't believe everything you read on the Internet just because there's a picture with a quote next to it.
Source: Alex Greg

They said what!?

We will often see stories or images shared in our social media feeds which claim that someone famous said something inspiring or cruel. If the quote feeds into our confirmation bias, we are likely to share it with our friends and family.

Next time, before you share, fact-check! Make sure that you’re sharing what was really said by that person instead of continuing the spread of misinformation. So, how can you do that? Just doing a Google search isn’t enough here. Often by the time the quote reaches you it’s been shared so often online that when you search, it will return a result showing you that it was indeed said by that person.

One way to see if the quote is for real is to visit Wikiquote which maintains a huge collection of quotes. Since these are submitted by users always look for the link to the primary source information (the transcript, video, or recording of where it was originally said or written). If there is no link to this primary source check another site to validate before sharing. The next site you might go to is Quote Investigator, which researches and explains common misquotes.

News Headlines, Urban Legends, and Clickbait

How often have you seen stories which ask you, "Will a doomsday asteroid destroy the Earth in February 2017?" or claim that "Cooking with aluminum foil puts you at risk for Alzheimer's"? Every day we’re bombarded by sensational news headlines, we get email forwards from family and friends, or we hear gossip around the water cooler. How do we know if what’s being told to us is correct and trustworthy?

Before you pass along any of those news articles, vote, or make a decision about how you feel on the topic, make sure you’re basing your actions on the real story. There are several resources you can use to fact-check what you’re hearing or seeing. First, you can visit Snopes which does research on everything from politics to science to entertainment and urban legends.

When it comes to politics there are two reliable sources for fact-checking, Politifact and Both of these sites do extensive research on political news to give you unbiased feedback on the merits of the headlines or quotes. You can also fact-check your representatives by looking at their deleted tweets on Politwoops.


Anytime you see data from a poll you should check the trustworthiness of the organization that conducted the poll. For example, some organizations may use a tactic called “push polling.” When this happens a large number of people are called and asked to participate in a poll. They are then asked leading questions such as, “If Candidate Jane Doe was under investigation for fraud, would you be more or less likely to vote for her?” This type of questioning allows the organization to plant unfavorable opinions about the other candidate in voter’s minds and to publish information agreeing with their stance.

The next time you see a poll in a news article, check to see who administered it. Then, go to the FiveThirtyEight’s Pollster Ratings. Here you can search for the organization and see if they’ve scored a trustworthy rating. Pollsters with F ratings have been found to have faked their data.

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