How To Identify Fake News and Fight Misinformation | Critical Thinking Skills | Lucia Grosaru | Skillshare

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How To Identify Fake News and Fight Misinformation | Critical Thinking Skills

teacher avatar Lucia Grosaru, Psychologist. Assertiveness Advocate.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Lecture 1: Introduction

    • 2. Lecture 2: What is Fake News?

    • 3. Lecture 3: Why Learn How To identify Fake News and Misinformation?

    • 4. Lecture 4: The Mindset of a Critical Thinker

    • 5. Lecture 5.1: The Context Analysis

    • 6. Lecture 5.2: The Source Analysis

    • 7. Lecture 5.3: The Author Analysis

    • 8. Lecture 5.4: The Claim Analysis

    • 9. Lecture 5.5: A Few More Recommendations

    • 10. Lecture 6: Conclusions and Final Recommendations

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About This Class

About This Class

Step-By-Step Strategy to help you identify fake news and misinformation by using the methods of Critical Thinking.

Learn how to navigate the abundance of information around you and how to become a socially engaged Critical Thinking advocate that helps make the world we live in a more reliable shared environment.


What You Will Learn 

  • The difference between Fake News, Misinformation, and Disinformation.
  • The main types of misinformation and their effects.
  • Why smart people are not immune to misinformation and manipulation.
  • The main characteristics of a Critical Thinker’s Mindset.
  • How to analyze the context of a news segment or claim.
  • How to analyze the source of a news segment or claim.
  • How to analyze the credentials for the author of a news segment or claim.
  • How to analyze the main claim included in a news segment.


The abundance of information makes identifying fake news and fighting misinformation, an essential skill in navigating the world we live in.

Being able to tell the fake from the real, the sensational from the relevant, and the manipulation from genuine interest, become reliable tools in our decision-making processes and ultimately, shape the way we build our own life and the society we live in.

Enroll in this course and discover new ways to optimize your critical thinking strategies and skills.

Meet Your Teacher

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Lucia Grosaru

Psychologist. Assertiveness Advocate.


Lucia Grosaru is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist with 10+ years experience in Assertiveness Training. She is the founder and author of the Psychology Corner blog where she mainly writes about Critical Thinking and Communication Skills.

Thousands of people have attended her online courses and live events and one of her main goals is to help people develop their inner potential and achieve their personal and professional goals through methods that promote self-awareness,  personal agency, authenticity and independence.

Prestigious publishing houses, such as Cambridge University Press, and authors have invited her to review their psychology and neuroscience books and she has also collaborated with other professionals in these fields to produce personal develo... See full profile

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1. Lecture 1: Introduction: In March 2011, the Animal Planet channel screen the DV special called mermaids. The body found. It presented video footage of alleged mermaid sightings and featured interviews with several scientists. One of them described as a former scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was sensational news. People all over the world reacted to the possibility of humanity finally being able to prove the existence of these until then thought of as mythical creatures. There it all was on Animal Planet, videos, scientific evidence, and all. What a spectacular moment in the history of humanity, right? Well, know, is if the obvious computer-generated imagery was not enough to come to this conclusion, the producers of the show presented the blink and you'll miss it disclaimer at the end of the so-called documentary, admitting that it was all a hoax. This was a science fiction program. The scientists, We're actors, the footage was fake and well know mermaid body was found. Even with this direct information about the show being fake. Doc you fiction or a documentary, the public was divided and many believed the evidence to be valid still. The conspiracy theory was also fueled by the fact that producers claim during the show that their website about the mermaids has been targeted and seized by the government in an attempt to cover up the entire story. In fact, the show was so successful that the SQL mermaids, the new evidence, aired on the same Animal Planet in 2013. It registered record ratings over 3.6 million people watched it. Turning this into the biggest audience for the channel in the network's history. And even in 2013, there were people who decided to believe in the show's truthfulness. The mermaids DV special is one of the biggest hoaxes in recent history. One of the biggest segments of fake news with a ripple effect in the collective consciousness. But fake news is old news, so to speak. The phenomenon has been around since ancient times. Even warriors in Kings would start false rumors about their enemies or would spread fake information that we present them in a favorable light. And most of the time, it worked. So unsurprisingly, fake news found its way into the modern era. For example, in 1835, the New York Sun published articles claiming that strange creatures have been found on the moon. In 1938, CBS Radio aired on adaptation of HG Wells says War of the Worlds, making people believe that it was like news broadcasts and that aliens were truly invading New Jersey. Many fell for it, and some panic allegedly ensued. In present times. Fake news and misinformation is all around us. From sensational fake reports about celebrities to political misinformation, too dangerous medical claims with no scientific evidence to support them. The abundance of information makes identifying fake news in fighting misinformation an essential skill in navigating the world we live in. Being able to tell the fake from the real, the sensational, from the relevant, and the manipulation from genuine interests become reliable tools in our decision-making processes and ultimately shape the way we build our own life and the society we live in. In the end, the management of fake news, misinformation and propaganda is a critical element of individual and social well-being. We cannot thrive if we allow truth to always be muffled by lies, even when they seem harmless. Helping you make good enough or better informed choices is the primary goal of this course. I am Luciano sorrow, welcome to how to identify fake news and fight misinformation. Join me in this journey and you will discover new ways to optimize your critical thinking strategies and skills. Let's dive in. See you in the next lecture. 2. Lecture 2: What is Fake News?: What is fake news? First, let's start by defining the terms that are relevant for this course. Fake news refers to a misleading piece of information that appears to be legitimate news. It is part of a larger segment of misleading information called misinformation. Misinformation refers to claims that are not valid or truthful. It is false information to put it simply, clickbait or sensational titles, rumors or contents such as satire and parody fall under the misinformation label. This is why I also want to mention the term this information, which refers to misinformation that is being designed and shared in a deliberately deceptive way and has a high potential to harm the audience. Political propaganda is one such type of misinformation. Cybercrimes, such as that of fishing, implying the intention to gather personal information from the targeted audience are also this information. The same goes for elaborate hoaxes. We can also think of fake news and misinformation as pertaining to these two large categories. A completely false information, meaning that there is absolutely no evidence that supports that specific claim. And be partially true information. Meaning that the fake news is built on a valid fact, but adds its own spin to serve it's misleading purpose. Several or all parts of a segment of information can be manipulated to create the desired social effect. Unfortunately, this leads to the creation of an impressive array of misinformation that is being shared with the public in various ways. For the purpose of this course, I will mention several types of misinformation and their general effects. Hoaxes, pranks, satire or parody may not harm you, but they can fool you nonetheless, at least for a limited amount of time. Think of April falls at the end of a prank. You realize it was all a joke. But while going through it, you've reacted to false information and triggers. Pseudoscientific claims are built starting from a scientifically proved contexts or fact and other false connection to a secondary element, leading to a conclusion that is not evidence-based. Sensational medical claims, such as those including miracle cures falling this category. While some pseudoscientific lines are relatively harmless, such as their belief in astrology. Others may put a danger to a person's physical and mental well-being. Impersonation of both individuals and organizations also harm the audience by making them think that they are interacting with a certain person or company. And then get them to act in ways that benefit the manipulator. Internet financial scams fall in this category. 3. Lecture 3: Why Learn How To identify Fake News and Misinformation?: Why learn how to identify fake news and misinformation? Why should you take an interest in the tangling, the messy world of fake news and misinformation, you ask. I suppose that many of you feel quite confident that you would never fall for one of these false claims. There are so obvious and ridiculous and you would never act on them. And even if you would react to one of them, you may think it would only be for a short amount of time and figure it all out two minutes later before any harm occurs. But that is a cognitive trap. Not all fake news is obvious. Not all segments of misinformation reference Big Foot or similar claims. In fact, the best types of deceiving news are those serving the false information in a subtle way? But I'm smart. You may say, it doesn't matter. Falling for misinformation and fake news is something that can happen too highly intelligent people as well. There are so many factors included in the design of fake news that there is almost a certainty that at least one type of misinformation can make its way into the mind of smart people. Funny enough, being smart may actually make you more vulnerable to certain variants of misinformation. Because you are not prepared to be misled. Your confidence and desire to be right may act against you in this contexts. So our first step is to accept that it can happen to you and to those around you. Therefore, fighting misinformation and the defects becomes a common goal in our society. And it all starts with being able to identify the misleading facts. In a world where the amount of information is overwhelming, telling the real from the faith becomes a much needed and desired skill. Properly separating the relevant from the insignificant, the signal from the noise, the truth from the lie, and most importantly, the useful from the dangerous, can lead to a world of opportunities that help us make better decisions as individuals and as a society. So why not embark on the journey? The antidote for fake news and misinformation is the continuous development of our critical thinking skills. This course will set the basis in this regard. 4. Lecture 4: The Mindset of a Critical Thinker: Where to start. The mindset of a critical thinker. Before we jump into the actual strategy of fake news identification, I believe that it is important to set aside some time to address the mental context in which critical thinking skills can truly thrive. And it all starts with one's mindset, the beliefs and values that we hold, the assumptions that we make, and how we see ourselves and the world, set the tone for how we engage with information in general and misinformation in particular. So before moving forward, I would like for you to read, analyze, and get comfortable with the following mindset elements that usually defined a critical thinker. One. Question, everything. Now, I do not mean that we should all turn into cynics and criticize everything all the time. What I mean by question Everything is that we should not see any type of claim as beyond the powers of a critical balanced investigation. We should be open to the idea of researching and coming to our own conclusions about any type of claim pertaining to any field of knowledge. A healthy dose of skepticism is a good starting point for any type of scientific investigation. To don't be afraid to say, I don't know. We don't hold all the answers and we shouldn't. No one does. Not. Knowing is an opportunity to learn, not a failure to prove one's authority on a subject. Three, don't be afraid to say, I need more time to form an opinion. Even if others may consider that the available data is enough to reach a reasonable conclusion on a subject. You may want to investigate further. So they call the time that you need until you are happy with the promises that lead to your conclusion. For learn to be independent in your thinking. If you are confident regarding the arguments that lead to your conclusion, stick to that conclusion. Even if you are the only ones supporting it. Five, hold an open opinion for those times when you cannot reach a definite answer. And there will be plenty of such occurrences. Six, accept the fact that you are not immune to misinformation and manipulation? Yes. Even if you are highly intelligent, even if you are deleting authority in your field, contexts may form in a way that may lead you in the direction of fake news. Being aware that you are not immune to fake news will keep you vigilant and ready to react to potential manipulation. Seven, accept that you may be wrong at times. It happens to all of us. It happens to the best of us. Anyone can draw conclusion that does not align with the relevant data. We can focus less on being right and moral, being willing to receive criticism and go through the data analysis process again and again. Eight, be willing to change your opinion. Critical thinkers accept the idea that new data may influence our previous conclusions. Even scientific facts are given only temporary acceptance from the scientific community. Discoveries may challenge and modify previous segments of knowledge. Be flexible in your thinking. Nine, we're all in this together. Be kind. We may at times Look at the same data and come to very different conclusions. This may place friends, family, and strangers on the so-called opposing sides of an issue. I'm not saying that we should avoid uncomfortable conversations. I'm not saying that we should avoid constructive criticism and conflict as long as we don't let it escalate. And I'm not saying that we shouldn't be nice to each other all the time. But I am proposing that the foundation of all of our social interactions and the relationship we have with ourselves be based in kindness. Don't hide your opinions. Don't sugarcoat them, but do not attack the person in front of you verbally or otherwise. Don't turn them into the enemy simply because your views on a particular subject do not match, regardless of how significant the subject may be for any of you. Then here, I believe this to be the most important element on this list. Simply care about the fact that fake news finds its way into the information pool and develop a motivation to stop it. Do not diminish its significance. And the potential damage it can inflict on individuals and society. Be confident that your actions can change the world we live in for the better. 5. Lecture 5.1: The Context Analysis: How to identify fake news, the strategy part 1, the context analysis. 1. First of all, think of the context in which you've come across the news or piece of information. Have you searched for this type of content? Did anyone recommended to you? As a general rule, if it's in your spam folder or includes shocking images, it is most likely not worth your time. To take a moment and get the general impression regarding the environment of this information. Does it seem serious? A bank, a joke, a social experiment may be. Keep in mind that sometimes an article is planted on purpose on a website as a social experiment just to analyze the audience's reaction. Others tell you directly that it is a parody site or a joke. Even if it's in a small disclaimer. Take a look and see if the information is well organized on the page or whether everything is crammed, written in bold letters, everything screaming at you. Are there many grammatical errors? If the environment is a chaotic mess, then the information is probably the same. 6. Lecture 5.2: The Source Analysis: Part 2, the source analysis. Now it's the moment to start analyzing the actual source of the news. Three. Is the source official? Is it a well-known website of a known company or individual, an official social media account. If it's a website, verify the link and make sure that there are no typos in the domain name and that you are indeed visiting the original one. It is often better to type the web address yourself for check the date of the article and see if it is still relevant. If the data is missing. That is a red flag for news websites or source. It means that the content can be promoted and falsely presented as news, even when it is just general information. 7. Lecture 5.3: The Author Analysis: Part 3, the author analysis. Verify the author of the article, book or source of information. Five. Is there a full name associated with the source, anonymous information or those articles signed with initials only should be considered with caution. Six, once you have the author's name, gender credentials, and see if they are relevant to the topic of the news. For example, do they hold degrees, licenses in their field? Are they well known professionals? If there are no credentials, but the person is still giving professional advice in an area where others hold certain degrees and different licenses, remained skeptical and do not validate the author as a reliable source just yet. Seven, are the credentials relevant for the topic of the news. For example, are well-known. Doctor may not be a reliable source of information in the field of technology or the stock market. On the other hand, a so-called influencer on social media may be a suitable choice to endorse makeup and clothes. What an unfit voice to give medical advice and promote vitamins or medical procedures. Also, keep in mind that credentials are not transferable, not between individuals, and not between professional fields or subjects. So simply because someone is married to a physicist, it does not mean that they have relevant physics knowledge. Same with medicine and other areas. Eat. Any conflict of interests. Does the author benefit directly from the claim or news? Are they being paid to write a review to promote the product? Were they part of the study? Did they personally know the parties involved in the article? Keep in mind that all the links between an author and the other parties must be disclosed. 8. Lecture 5.4: The Claim Analysis: Part 4, the claim analysis. If the context, the source and the author of the news have Boston the reliability test, then it is time to take a closer look at the actual content. Nine, sentiment analysis. How does the news or claim made you feel? Is it scary, hopeful, incredibly optimistic? Is it a sensational claim that makes you go? This is amazing. Try and see which type of emotion is being triggered in the audience. Suppose the information generates incredible amounts of fear, anxiety, or promises an incredible solution to a very complex problem. In that case, it is lightly fake news or some other type of misinformation. Facts are about facts, not about the emotion they may generate. Keep in mind that in general, strong emotional responses are usually part of manipulative tactics. Then can the information be found on other sources as well? Islam user claim presented on other websites as well is it's cited in other journals or books. Usually, unless the source is incredibly new, if the claim is only available in one specific contexts, then it is likely fabricated. 11, vague language is usually an indicator of fake news or pseudoscientific claims. This type of formulation may include the following. Scientists said, well, which scientists study showed you should be able to trace that studied with publishing journal. Also keeping in mind that not all journal papers or studies are valid simply because they've been published. At times, the peer review system fails and the paper may be retracted after publication. If proof becomes available that the content is not actually compatible with scientific standards. 12, consider the burden of proof. Whenever a sensational claim is made. The responsibility to provide supporting evidence is with the person or organization that produced that claim. Data that confirms the information should be made available by the source of the news, usually at the same time as the announcement of the gleam or publication of content. 13. Check the primary sources for the news or scientific paper that you're reading. Make sure that they indeed match the segment of communication that you are analyzing. This may surprise you, but fake news or pseudoscientific publications may often reference otherwise trustworthy sources, but modify the statement of the initial source to fit their interests. In other words, they may use a trustworthy name or brand, but lie about their position regarding the pseudoscientific claim. Sometimes designers of fake news may rely on the fact that their readers will not take the extra step and investigate the initial sources. The only hope to benefit from the association with a reputable source. 14. Another way to analyze a claim is to simply see if you can replicate the results or whether the results have been obtained by others as well, through the same methods as those presented in your original source. Is that life hack presented on a social media channel truly as amazing and useful as presented? Or is it just a great idea? But in practice, you would have better options to deal with the same life contexts. 15, keep in mind that large numbers do not really matter when assessing the validity of a claim. Even if a piece of content is shared and believed by many people, that is not evidence of the claims truth value. Large groups of people may be wrong about a certain thing. Evidence is the only type of information that can prove the validity of acclaim. 16. Seeing is not believing your eyes and your brain may trick you. They are not as reliable as we would like to think. Even if we think we are pretty much aware of everything that is happening around us, what our brain records may not be very accurate or complete. Psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons provided evidence for an effect called inattentional blindness. Through a study now known as the gorilla experiment. In the study, participants were shown a video of people playing basketball. And we're asked to count how many times players in white shirts pass the ball. Sounds like a simple task, right? Well, yes. But the study showed that while the participants paid attention exclusively to the white shirts and the ball, they've completely missed to notice a very awkward event. In the middle of the video. A woman dressed in a gorilla suit enter the scene, face the cameras some of her chest and walked away. Half of the participants missed her. Similar tests confirm that almost half of the people in a group witnessing a certain event, if focused on specific elements in that environment, will completely miss other significant elements that belong to it. This is why witness testimony is not enough proof in legal settings. Inattentional blindness is also one of the reasons why close-up magic works. Your attention is focused on 1, while many other amazing things happen in proximity and allow the illusion to happen. Also with the rise of technologies such as deep fakes, images and sounds can be digitally altered in truly deceiving ways. 9. Lecture 5.5: A Few More Recommendations: A few more recommendations. At the end of this strategy, I would like to mention two more elements that you can add to your analysis to discriminate between fake and reliable news and information. 17, pay attention to your own biases. Sometimes our previously held beliefs may alter the way we look at the context, and therefore, they may modify our reasoning and conclusions. Biases are irrational elements that make their way toward decision-making processes. Therefore, learning to identify and eliminate them from our analysis is a worthy endeavor. There is a long list of biases that may be automatically activated in various life contexts. But in regards to fake news identification, I would like to mention the following three forms. A authority bias. It refers to the tendency to consider that claims that come from an authority figure, a medical doctor, a politician, a celebrity, a scientist, may hold a greater value of truth. Then what the actual evidence supports. As I said earlier in the course, it is all about evidence and facts. They should remain reliable and valid regardless of the person who is communicating them to a larger audience. You should not allow yourself to be influenced by one's opinion simply because they are perceived as an authority in the field. They too can be wrong. Be confirmation bias. This bias refers to the tendency to search for, interpret and recall information and events in a way that confirms our previously held beliefs and opinions. We want to be right? So we will often try to find information that confirms that our assumptions were correct all along. See, cherry picking bias. Cherry picking refers to selecting the type of data that we analyze to draw a conclusion about the specific claim. Here, we would likely choose a convenient set of data, one that would rather confirm our stance regarding a topic and will completely ignore or suppress evidence that would have the power to show otherwise. Confirmation bias is a type of cherry-picking data. 18, the last recommendation regarding the analysis of any claim. The simply ask other people in the field and tried together as many opinions and perspectives as possible. This may help you look at an issue from various angles and assist you in designing your own analysis process. Don't borrow another person's conclusion, but rather compare your reasoning to that of other people in terms of critical analysis. Should you add more steps to your process? More data, talking to others and putting together more informed opinions helps. 10. Lecture 6: Conclusions and Final Recommendations: Conclusions and final recommendations. Fake news and misinformation will always be part of our environment. But being part of a society that can reveal its flaws and gradually diminish its impact will definitely assist personal and social growth. Why choose to live in a murky cognitive environment? When we have the tools to see clearer why waste time and resources on fake bots when we can follow a better route straight to our desired destination. Ultimately, it is up to us. Each of us can make the decision to actively participate in making the world we live in a more reliable shared environment. One that allows reason to guide our next common steps and goals. And like I said earlier, it all starts when you care. Thank you for watching or listening to this course. Depending on the platform that you are using, please feel free to ask any questions you may have on the topic of fake news identification in the Q and a areas related to the course. Talk to you soon.