Fact check like a pro

Fact checkers spend their days reading and rereading popular information on the Web. Then they validate it or debunk it. They have one simple tip: get off the website that publishes it.  

You already know the basic fact-checking tips: 1) Don’t share without reading, 2) Check if the article is signed and has a publication date. 3) Look for the “About Us” section. 

But sometimes this isn’t enough. That’s because the relevant information can’t be found in the article or on the website that published it. Sometimes this information is crucial. Who funds this site? Do the authors have radical opinions? Are they trying to sell something? Has this site been denounced by serious journalists, health organizations or consumer protection organizations?  

To find out these details, you must get off the site that publishes the information and look elsewhere. This technique is called lateral or parallel reading. Instead of staying on the site, you have to open new Web pages and go from tab to tab.  

This is very effective. In 2018, Stanford University researchers asked fact checkers, historians and students to check a website’s credibility as quickly as possible. Unsurprisingly, the fact checkers finished far ahead. They were used to lateral reading.  


Key word searches 

The good news is that fact checkers have already identified and denounced shady or problem sites. You can quickly find answers by looking up the Web page’s name on a search engine, along with the terms “reliable”, “credible” or “false information”. 

You can detect conflicts of interest by searching for the key words “owner” and “funding”. 

You can also go onto Wikipedia and research the website or the organization that runs it. Click on the footnotes and open them in new windows to learn more about the subject.  

This method also lets you triangulate your results. It’s repeated often: diversifying your sources in the best way to get an accurate picture of a subject. It’s important to see how information was treated elsewhere.  

As needed, you can find the details that were added, omitted, exaggerated or manipulated by the author of the article you want to check. Three is the magic number of sources. 


To learn more about lateral research and the results of the Stanford University test, watch this video capsule from our series Anatomie des fausses nouvelles (in French only).




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