Don't Get Duped — How To Spot (& Avoid Sharing) Fake News

Did Harambe the gorilla actually receive thousands of votes in the election? Of course not. Did Michelle Obama delete references to Hillary Clinton from her Twitter account? Nope. Is there any actual evidence of widespread voter fraud? Strike three.

But that hasn't stopped any of those bogus stories from spreading on social media.

Twitter and Facebook have been infected this year with fake news that's being shared and reshared by hundreds of thousands of people. The risk of exposure is real: More than 40% of U.S. adults receive news on Facebook, according to a report from the Pew Research Center and the Knight Foundation. Stanford University researchers also found that 4 in 10 high school students were convinced that toxic conditions near a nuclear plant in Japan caused deformed flowers — even though the photo that claimed as much and circulated on social media provided no source or evidence of the location.

The consequences of the spread of false stories can be serious. Just this month, a man was arrested after he allegedly fired a gun in a Washington, D.C., pizza shop. His motivation? An online story that falsely claimed the restaurant was part of a (non-existent) child sex-slave operation run by Hillary Clinton.

Some have even claimed the fake news scourge tipped the election to President-elect Donald Trump. We may never be able to determine the true extent of the damage it caused, but we do know that it isn’t going away anytime soon. Facebook removed human editors from its trending news section, allowing its algorithm to decide what stories appear in the area. Three days later, fake news showed up in the section.

So, in an effort to combat the plague, Refinery29 has put together a list of tips to help you determine whether a story is true or phony. Because we know you don’t want to be caught sharing lies.