In November I wrote an article about deciphering fact from fiction but I didn’t cover the whole fake news craze. Perhaps in my naivety I hoped the issue would go away. That after the elections the whole craze would die down and everyone would be more diligent in what they post on social media. Unfortunately that was not the case and the issue of fake news keeps expanding, facts are getting muddled and issues of more than bad news and clickbait sites are arising.

Instead of beating the horse on the head of how to spot fake news I wanted to instead briefly touch on some subjects that are getting more awareness from this fake news trend and those who are cracking down on misinformation.


We have all seen the meme with Lincoln being quoted as saying you can’t always trust everything you read on the internet. While the misquote is funny because the internet clearly wasn’t around in President Lincoln’s time, It also reiterates the point that anything can be photo shopped and everything needs to be analyzed.

The issue of misquotes on the internet sparked the interest of Garson O’Toole (according to this New York Times article is a pseudonym for Gregory F. Sullivan) who created a Quote Investigator website, and has also published a book entitled Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations. By researching backwards to the point of origin of a quote Mr. O’Toole is combating fake quotes or misquotes that we encounter everyday.

Peer Review

Another issue that has seen more prominent attention is fake science. If we delve outside of the political spectrum the issue isn’t so much about “fake” science, but of bad science, retracted science, and issues in peer review. Retraction Watch looks out for retracted published articles and highlights trends in retraction.

Peer review has gone through many changes throughout it’s inception around the 1860’s. This article in Physics Today discusses how peer review used to be and how it is now. One issue is that of peer review rings, or fake peer review which can lead to unreputable work being published. The world of scholarly publishing is pushing for more ways to combat this practice.

Another issue is that of bad cell lines. These are known biological cell lines that are false. When added within other cell lines it not only is hard to pinpoint if they are there, it also can discredit the entire paper if found out. The Global Standards Biological Institute and Access Innovations are a few organizations working to detect these cell lines in papers and put an end to their use.

Fighting Fake News

Librarians are useful tools to combat fake news. They are armed with skills to be able to decipher real from fake, and somewhere in between. Because of this, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has developed this infographic that is being widely disbursed as a good tool for disambiguating news articles. The Seattle Public Library System is also offering fake news survival classes.

Universities are also joining in on educating students on how to spot fake news such as the University of Toronto, and the National Institute of Health also has a guide for evaluating online health resources.

While I was naive to believe that the alternative facts would disappear, all this do it yourself fact checking is giving me hope for a more informed public in the future, who no longer will take things at face value.

Jennifer Crawford, MLIS
Marketing Librarian for Access Innovations, Inc.