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Decode Fake News: Researching the Author/Container/Sponsor

This Library Guide provides resources to help students to identify "fake" news, bias, and propaganda, as well as good journalism, with a goal of encouraging them to become engaged consumers of information.

Google Search Results

"Ad position is the order in which your ad shows up on a page. For example, an ad position of "1" means that your ad is the first ad on a page. In general, it's good to have your ad appear higher on a page because it's likely that more customers will see your ad." Google Ads.

"Google AdWords is an online advertising service where advertisers pay to display brief advertising copy to web users. Google AdWords' system is partly based on cookies and keywords predefined by the advertisers." Wikipedia

Sources to investigate -- far-right, ultra-conservative opinion site; former executive chairman Steven K. Bannon is now President Trump's Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor; he was Trump's 2016 Campaign Manager. -- conspiracy theorist and right-wing talk-show host Alex Jones' web site -- blog by white supremacy group "The Creativity Movement." Here's their article on fake news: -- Vanguard News Network, white supremacist site -- Racial Observer -- white supremacy group -- "news and satire" -- fake news

The Power of Google

"Then there’s the secret recipe of factors that feed into the algorithm Google uses to determine a web page’s importance – embedded with the biases of the humans who programmed it. These factors include how many and which other websites link to a page, how much traffic it receives, and how often a page is updated. People who are very active politically are typically the most partisan, which means that extremist views peddled actively on blogs and fringe media sites get elevated in the search ranking.

“These platforms are structured in such a way that they are allowing and enabling – consciously or unconsciously – more extreme views to dominate,” said Martin Moore from Kings College London’s Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power.

Appearing on the first page of Google search results can give websites with questionable editorial principles undue authority and traffic.

“These two manipulations can work together to have an enormous impact on people without their knowledge that they are being manipulated, and our research shows that very clearly,” Epstein said. “Virtually no one is aware of bias in search suggestions or rankings.”

This is compounded by Google’s personalization of search results, which means different users see different results based on their interests. “This gives companies like Google even more power to influence people’s opinions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors,” he said." 

-- Olivia Solon and Sam Levin, "How Google's Search Algorithm Spreads False Information With a Rightwing Bias," The Guardian, Dec. 16, 2016.

Google Ads

Activity: Researching Organizations

Center for American Progress

Public Policy Polling

Brookings Institute



Heritage Foundation

News Delivery Systems (Containers)

"Article" vs informational snippet

News outlets/Media outlets

Blogs (Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).)

Advocacy organization web pages