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How to Spot Fake News and Information

Updated: Mar 31, 2022


October 6th, 2021



David Peachment












 



We live in a time unlike any other. The sheer volume of information available at our fingertips is truly staggering! At a moment’s notice, we can pull out the supercomputer in our pocket and instantaneously search up any phrase or concept we can imagine. Once searched, we are bombarded with thousands upon thousands of results. It can be hard to sift through what is useful and what is garbage. Additionally, on social media, people are regularly providing their own information, facts, and opinions. Knowing what is true and what is false is getting harder and harder. Tack onto that the rise of false news, and we are caught in an informational lightning storm!

In this blog post, I want to provide a simple tool I like to use for evaluating information online. It’s called the CRAAP Test. A crude name, but it gets the point across! Run through this checklist whenever faced with information you’re not sure if true or not. By taking the time to figure out the legitimacy of information you can grow your own knowledge and help stop the spread of false info! But without further ado, let’s get right into it!

The CRAAP Test

The CRAAP Test is a simple checklist to go through whenever faced with information to figure out its legitimacy. CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.

Currency:

Currency refers to the timeliness of the information you are evaluating. When was it published? Has the information been changed or updated since? Is the information current or out of date for the topic you are researching? If it is an online source, are the links still functional? All of these questions are important as they can help you frame whether the information is even current and useable.

Relevance:

Relevance is about the importance of the information to what you are trying to understand. For example, does the information relate to the topic you are looking up or answer any questions you have? Who is the intended audience of the information, and is it you? Is the information at an appropriate level for your needs? Such as you might be trying to gain a basic understanding of how planets work without reading an astrophysics thesis! Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is the one you’ll use? Are you comfortable using this information for a research paper? Now that last question is super useful not just for students but for everyone. Basically, would you stand behind this information? Are you comfortable spreading it in the world and potentially being scrutinized for your information choice?

Authority:

Authority is all about the source and owner of the information. Who is the author/organization/sponsor/publisher? Are the author’s credentials or organization’s affiliations given? Does the author have any qualifications to discuss this topic? Is there any contact information such as an email address or links to social media? What is the URL of the website? (.gov is a governmental website, .ca is a Canadian website, .org is a non-profit organization, etc.)

Accuracy:

This refers to the reliability, truthfulness, and general correctness of the information you are looking at. Where does the information come from? Is there evidence to support the ideas presented? Has the source been peer-reviewed or reviewed by outside sources? Can you verify the information from your own personal knowledge? Does the tone and writing of the piece seem biased or free of any emotional involvement? Are there any grammar or spelling mistakes? Accuracy especially is one of the most critical parts of the CRAAP Test to run information through! If you don’t take the time with others, at least take the time to use this one!

Purpose:

Purpose is focused on the reason the article exists. What is the entire purpose of the information? Is it to teach? Sell? Entertain? Persuade you towards something? Sway opinions in any way? Does the writer make their purpose for writing clear? Is the information given fact, propaganda, or merely an opinion? Is the perspective impartial or is it ideologically driven? Is the written piece objective or subjective?

That is the CRAAP Test in a nutshell. Now I’m not expecting you to follow each and every point in this blog anytime you are presented with information. But I think it is essential to think critically about what you are reading. Try to come at it from an objective and open-minded space even if you don’t like what you are reading! One of the primary methods of growth is being faced with opposing information to what you know and understand. Be open to whatever comes your way but do evaluate it. Consider a few of the points mentioned in this post whenever you read something political or ideological, and you’ll be much better at spotting fake news and false information in general!


Until next time,

David Peachment

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