A Guide to Crap Detection Resources
How this came about, how you can help:
This document is a resource for assessing the accuracy or veracity of online information, organized under a number of headings. The objective of the resource is to improve the digital lives of individuals and to improve the quality of the online commons by increasing the number of people who know how to separate good info from bad information. It began as a chapter for my 2012 book, Net Smart: How to Thrive Online.
I wrote the book to improve the quality of the commons and lives of individuals by introducing them to five fundamental literacies. In the order I presented them, these literacies involve skills (both individual and social) having to do with attention, crap detection, participation, collaboration, and network know-how. Attention came first because it is basic to thought and communication of any kind. Crap detection came next because we have lived since the invention of the search engine in a world where almost everybody almost everywhere can ask any question and receive many answers in a fraction of a second -- however, after millennia of vesting authority in the authors of texts, it is now up to the information seeker/user to decide whether the answers they receive are accurate, inaccurate, outright bogus, or deliberately misleading.
In addition to writing the book, I’ve made available a syllabus for others to adopt and modify. Access to all the published information in the world is a danger rather than a benefit to those who don’t know how to test it. Here are some tools that anybody can use to judge the quality of online information. If you have a suggestion for an additional resource, criticism of an existing resource, suggested correction, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. First, make sure that what you want to add is an effective tool. Then, make sure that your candidate resource isn’t already here.
-- Howard Rheingold
This curated catalog is maintained by:
Daithí de Brún
WhoIs: ICANN’s portal that lets you see information about who owns any domain on the Internet.
ARIN’s Whois: This is American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN)’s portal to the whois database that shows who is responsible for IP addresses. This data is updated by the various regional Internet registries (RIR) and ISPs that have direct address assignments from the RIRs. It isn’t 100% accurate but can give you a good clue who “owns” that IP address.
SearchSystems.net: An international directory of free public records.
TestIPv6.com: Tells you your public IPv4 and IPv5 (Internet Protocol) address
DeadorAliveInfo.com: Instantly verify whether a celebrity is dead or alive.
Media Bias/Fact Check Icon: Chrome browser extension by Jeffrey Carl Faden shows an icon denoting the political bias for any web page being viewed according to Media Bias/Fact Check. You can click the icon to read more notes about the site, or visit MBFC for more details.
Media Bias Fact Check: Information resource for media bias online. Find out source bias and political “preference” for over 800 media and news source online.
Truth Goggles: Bookmarklet tool that highlights claims on a page when activated, and tested against Politifact related claim.
Truth Teller: Allows users to watch a video with Truth Teller and view the transcript with a link to reported claims in real time.
AZ Fact Check: Arizona-specific resource - fact check Arizona politician statements.
Africa Check: Africa-specific resource - fact checking stories, claim, and reports from Africa.
FlackCheck: Sister site to FactCheck.Org, but uses parody, humor, and satire to debunk politics.
Full Fact: Independent fact checking organization based in the UK for statements in the media and politics.
PolitiFact: The site researches statements made by politicians, and rates the accuracy of those statements on their “Truth-O-Meter.”
The Fact Checker: Washington Post blog that fact checks statements by politicians and political advocacy groups of all parties.
FactCheck.org: A site that researches claims made by politicians of all parties.
Project Vote Smart: Project vote smart empowers citizens to make informed political decisions by making voting records, public statements, and other important information about public officials accessible and convenient.
Greenhouse: Free browser extension for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox that displays on any web page detailed campaign contribution data for every Senator and Representative.
thinkContext: Open source browser extension which displays a variety of contextual information for entities, including campaign contribution information for both of political recipients and donors, as well as fact checking information from Politifact. Also includes data from a variety of progressive groups, including company ratings on LGBT policies, human rights, labor, etc.
Factchecker: “The purpose of this Web site, and an accompanying column in the Sunday print edition of The Washington Post, is to “truth squad” the statements of political figures regarding issues of great importance, be they national, international or local.”
Fraud.org: National Consumers League project; allows for consumers to file, report, and look up scams.
Ripoff Report: A collective intelligence site that encourages consumers to report unsavory behavior of companies they have dealt with. You can search by company.
Scam Advisor: Allows users to check a website and lists many details about each domain, including age, website speed, owner city and address.
Investigative Dashboard: Helps investigators expose illicit business ties that cross borders
Consumer Reports: Ad-free magazine and organization that carries out tests on a wide variety of products and publishes review. Full digital access requires a subscription or a library membership - check to see if your library subscribes.
GoodGuide: Information on health, environment and social impact of consumer products
AdDetector: Identifies online content paid for by a corporate sponsor. Browser plugin for Chrome and Firefox.
ScienceDirect: Scientific database that offers journal articles and book chapters from more than 2,500 journals and almost 20,000 books. You only get access to most of that content if you're affiliated with a college/research library that has a subscription, or your public library bought one. Check with your local library staff to see if you have expanded access.
The Health on the Net Foundation: Source for finding reliable and credible online health information.
PubMed: From the National Library of Medicine, the most comprehensive index of medical literature.
Webcina: Helps physicians enter the Internet era with reliable medical information and selected online medical resources.
Medical Library Association: “A User’s Guide to Finding and Evaluating Health Information on the Web”--This guide outlines the collective wisdom of medical librarians on the Internet.
MedHelp.org: Provides health information from doctors and health communities.
JustAnswer: Get answers to your medical, health, or any general questions.
Sharecare.com: Provides health information from experts and allows you to ask specific health-related questions and get answers.
Healthline.com: Provides health information, tools, news, and reviews from doctors to encourage healthy living.
PatientsLikeMe.com: A peer community that allows you to find other patients like you and share your experience with treatments.
CureTogether.com: Provides tools that allow you to track and manage your health and a peer community that offers treatment ratings and reviews.
OrganizedWisdom.com: Curates and organizes health information from thousands of health and wellness professionals
TalkAboutHealth.com: Matches patients with peers and experts to foster support groups.
MedlinePlus: MedlinePlus is the National Institutes of Health's Web site for patients and their families and friends. Produced by the National Library of Medicine, it brings you information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues in language you can understand.
Healthfinder: “a government website where you will find information and tools to help you and those you care about stay healthy.”
FotoForensic: Online tool that allows one to check whether a photo has been Photoshopped or modified by checking compression levels in the photo.
Image Edited: Similar to FotoForensic; allows for users to check whether a photo is an original or not.
TinEye: A reverse image search engine that allows the user to find out where an image came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, and how to find a higher resolution image if possible.
Google Reverse Image Search : Similar to TinEye, Google Images has the option of searching by image, which allows a user to upload any image and find images that resemble it.
Fast Image Research: Simplifies the reverse image search process by automatically retrieving search results from your choice of Google Images, TinEye, or both.
FourMatch: A Photoshop extension that analyzes any JPEG to see if it is an untouched original from a digital camera. Costs $890.
Imgops: Free service that offers all kinds of image validation and verification tools.
Jeffrey’s EXIF viewer: Helps you check Exchangeable Image File (EXIF) information of any digital photo including date/time, camera settings, and, where available, GPS location.
Learn to Verify Social Media Images: From PBS includes link to verification software
Izitru - Verify whether a photo has been edited, doctored or photoshopped.
Elog.io - Search for information about and provenance of images, and add attribution for any of the 22 million images in the Wikimedia Commons database
FirstDraftNewsCheck - Chrome extension walks you through verification steps to ensure image / video is trustworthy and provides you with tool to share verification results publicly.
Truepic - “You either snap a photo (or video) inside Truepic’s consumer iOS or Android app, or within the app of a client that’s embedded its SDK. Truepic’s patented”technology verifies that the image hasn’t been altered or edited, and watermarks it with a time stamp, geocode, and other metadata”
How to Verify Fake Photos and Videos by Confirming Time and Place “For carrying out verification of photographs and videos, the two most important pieces of information you can have are place and time. The vast majority of materials can be verified, or confirmed as fakes, by just establishing where and when they were shot.”
Snopes: A comprehensive search engine that allows users to check the validity of online urban legends, myths, and misinformation.
LazyTruth: Gmail/Chrome extension that automatically analyzes the validity of claims made in emails.
Hoax Slayer: Site that allows users to check whether emails are hoaxes or not.
Antiviral, Gawker’s debunking column: is about “Here’s What’s Bullshit on the Internet today.”
Wikipedia: list of common misconceptions: “This list corrects erroneous beliefs that are currently widely held about notable topics. Each misconception and the corresponding facts have been discussed in published literature. Note that each entry is formatted as a correction; the misconceptions themselves are implied rather than stated.”
Emergent: Emergent is a real-time rumor tracker. It's part of a research project with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University that focuses on how unverified information and rumor are reported in the media. It aims to develop and best practices for debunking misinformation. Read more about the research here.
Quote Investigator: “This blog records the investigatory work of Garson O’Toole who diligently seeks the truth about quotations. Who really said what? This question often cannot be answered with complete finality, but approximate solutions can be iteratively improved over time.”
B.S.Detector: Easily identify fake and satirical news sites, as well as other questionable news sources, with a simple tooltip. Chrome browser extension.
Checkdesk: A tool that allows journalists curate breaking news content and enables collaborative fact-checking.
Churnalism: Online tool that compares articles to a database of other articles and press releases to determine if it is original journalism.
Storyful: A tool for newsrooms - their team works to verify social media content.
HelpaReporterOut: Free subscription site that allows reporters to submit a query looking for sources.
WhoWhatWhen: Tool for historical fact checking - database of famous individuals and events from 1000 A.D. to the present.
Wayback Machine: Search engine for old website designs and screenshots.
AIDR: Free open-source platform that that filters and classifies microblog messages during a humanitarian crisis.
FirstDraft News: “Essential resources for reporting and sharing information that emerges online.”
MediaBugs.org - service for reporting specific, correctable errors and problems in media coverage.
VerificationJunkie: a curated collection of useful resources and tools to verify facts and news online.
Verification Handbook: “a definitive guide to verifying digital content for emergency coverage.”
Africa Check: South African political/journalistic fact-checking nonprofit
Newsdiff: NewsDiffs archives changes in articles after publication
Ad Detector: Browser plugin that identifies articles that are paid for by corporate sponsors
Copyscape: Instantly compare any two articles to find out whether one has plagiarized the other
Browser extension to flag fake news sites: “here’s a handy browser extension I put together this afternoon, based on media studies professor Melissa Zimdars’s list of unreliable or misleading websites. It works like this: If you visit a URL known for producing non-news in news-like packages, you get a pop-up alert warning you. That’s it!”
NoMoreFakeNews: Trustworthiness ranking score for websites. Chrome browser extension.
Sites with very low score trigger a notification.
This is Fake: Slate fake news and sites detector identifies articles in your FB feed that may spread misinformation and allows you to tell your friends when they're sharing a fake story. When you connect This Is Fake to your Facebook account, you can also flag fake news stories to Slate’s own moderators. Chrome browser extension.
Crap Detection Toolbox: “At NOWCastSA, we try to make the world a better and more sensical place by empowering people to separate facts from crap - to distinguish the real and the true from the misinformation, disinformation and sometimes deliberately deceptive information circulating online.”
10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Article: “You want to be informed, but a good deal of the information out there is incorrect or biased. Here are some things to keep an eye out for when reading a news article.”
Allsides: A tool for seeing outside your bubble. “Don’t be fooled by bias. Think for yourself. See news and issues from multiple perspectives, discuss like adults.”
WikiTribune: Crowdfunded initiative supports quality-journalism funded and fact-checked by readers.
Google Feature to Determine Whether a Newspaper is Fake: For example, type [denver newspapers] into Google to see a list of real newspapers in Denver.
PolitiFact’s Guide to Fake News Sites and What They Peddle: “Using our experiences, we've been able to create our own fake news almanac. We want to help readers sort out fact from fiction on your social news feeds, so we compiled a list of every website on which we’ve found deliberately false or fake news stories since we started working along with Facebook — to 201 in all (updated as of May 16).”
Field Guide to Fake News: “the Public Data Lab and First Draft collaborated last year to develop a free, open-access guide to help students, journalists and researchers investigate misleading and viral content, memes and trolling practices online.”
Duke Reporters’ Lab Factchecking News: “The Reporters’ Lab explores new forms of journalism, including fact-checking, which is growing around the world, empowering democracies and holding governments accountable, and structured journalism, which creates new forms of storytelling and beat reporting.”
Trustervista - This tool determines a trustworthiness score for news articles using AI. The score takes in account the article’s content, and also what sources it references back to, as well as which information it used and from where that information originated. It can also find the original source of information used to create a news story by following implicit / explicit references.
Free and paid versions.
Michael Caulfield has put together a simple 30-second how-to video for fact checking news. Not as quick as he says, but some good advice that goes along with his 90-second crap detection method.
Report an Error: Allows individuals and media sites to crowdsource the Report the Error alliance that fact checks a post or article.
MediaBugs: User can report “bugs” they find in media. Media outlets are notified of their errors, and MediaBugs tracks how the sites respond.
TruthSift: “TruthSift is for publication of Statements and their demonstrations. Statements that are Established are bordered in bold, statements that are Refuted have thin borders. A statement is established only when nobody has raised an unrefuted challenge to it or its demonstration.”
Grasswire: Open newsrooms where to submit, review, edit, verify and fact check user reported news stories.
Digital Polarization Initiative: “The Digital Polarization Initiative, or “DigiPo”, is an attempt to build student web literacy by having students participating in a broad, cross-institutional project to fact-check, annotate, and provide context to the different news stories that show up in our Twitter and Facebook feeds. The effort is spearheaded by Mike Caulfield. If you, your class, or campus project or organization would like to participate, complete this Google Form.”
Beall’s List: Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers.
Google Scholar: search engine that indexes metadata and full text of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines.
Zotero: Browser add-on that senses content in the browser. Collects, organizes, cites, and shares your research sources.
Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index: A compilation of scholars that derives a score based on their publications, citations by other scholars, grants, honors, and awards.
Publish or Perish: Free downloadable software that retrieves and analyzes scientific citations from the Google Scholar database.
Evaluating Internet Resources: A teacher’s guide to evaluating the quality of websites -- and teaching students to evaluate.
Academia.edu: Social networking website for academics with 21 million registered users. The platform can be used to share papers, monitor their impact, and follow the research in a particular field.
ResearchGate: Social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators.
How to judge the reliability of Internet information: Short page from McGraw-Hill higher education division.
“On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit:” Paper in Canadian academic journal Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2015, pp. 549–563
Battling Fake News in the Classroom: See how one educator helps students develop media literacy—a critical 21st-century skill.
Calling Out Bullshit: Syllabus of college course
Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers: Free book by an educator
Lexicon of Lies Teaching Guide: PDF “Lexicon of Lies: A Guide to Terms for Problematic Information reviews the meanings of a variety of terms related to problematic information, and explores the places where those meanings break down or become complicated. It can be used as a teaching aid in undergraduate and graduate level classes. Professors and teachers of communication, media studies, sociology, and advertising may find the Lexicon particularly useful for informing classroom discussions of current events around “fake news,” “post-truth,” media manipulation, or disinformation.”
Misinformation Research: Public Bibliography: Open bibliography of relevant, evidence-based research on problems of misinformation
Top Ten Sites to Help Students Check Facts: “Here's a rundown of 10 of the top fact- and bias-checking sites to share with your students.”
300+ Web Searches For Your Web Literacy Class: “Sometimes in online media literacy we need a Google search that will turn up a mixture of high quality and low quality information for students to sort through. ”
Free Online Course on Identifying Misinformation: From Harvard Kennedy School
Banjo: Aggregates social media into one application, so you can cross-reference events.
Geofeedia: Allows a user to search social media uploads by location in real time.
Truthy: Analytics and infographics on how communication spreads on Twitter. Focuses mostly on politics, social movements, and news.
Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit: Maria Popova’s excerpt from Sagan’s book, “Demon-Haunted World” contains many useful tools.
Crap detection bookmarks:Howard Rheingold’s unsorted collection of crap detection bookmarks
Innumeracy: conveys “a person's inability to make sense of the numbers that run their lives”. This site has some useful resources to overcome that inability.
Orders of Magnitude: A worthwhile example helping people understand orders of magnitude.
Verification Handbook:Tools from the Verification Handbook, authored by leading journalists from the BBC, Storyful, ABC, Digital First Media, and other verification experts.
Good post on the data versus theory debates that spring up occasionally, something that’s going to get worse as we move into the realm of “big data”
“Spurious correlations” demonstrates vividly how correlation does not equal causation (note for example, how the graph of US imports of crude oil from Norway correlates closely with drivers killed in collisions with railway trains)
“The Sender Score is an indication of the trustworthiness of an email sender’s IP address and is used by email providers and filters to determine additional email filtering criteria. Just like a credit score is used by financial institutions to decide the terms of a loan, email providers use the Sender Score to determine the terms for filtering your emails.” (You have to register to use this -- normally a tool for email marketers, it can also be used to test reliability of send of email to you.)
“The Critical Thinker Academy is a website that hosts free video courses and pdf ebooks on a range of topics related to critical thinking. It also includes a set of tutorial courses on essay writing. The videos are created by me, Kevin deLaplante. I'm a philosopher of science by training, with over twenty years of university experience teaching courses on philosophy, critical thinking, scientific reasoning, and more. I now work full-time creating content for the Critical Thinker Academy.”
Essay by Professor Nathaniel Barr of the University of Waterloo: “In his well-known essay On Bullshit, Harry Frankfurt defines bullshit as speech that is designed to impress but lacks a direct concern for the truth. Under such a definition, a large portion of what we read online today is likely to be bullshit.”
“Bullshit, as the philosopher Harry Frankfurt defined it in his influential 2005 book On Bullshit, isn’t the same thing as a lie. When a lie is told, the speaker knows it to be untrue. When bullshit is spewed, on the other hand, the speaker simply doesn’t care if it’s true. So if I were to tell you, right now, “I’m typing this article up on a typewriter rather than a laptop,” that would be a lie. If I were to say something like, “Some of the components in my computer were manufactured in Taiwan,” that would qualify as bullshit because I didn’t check beforehand and didn’t care about the veracity of the statement before uttering it.”
Podcast: “How strong is your bullshit detector? And what exactly IS the scientific definition of bullshit? In this episode we explore both of those concepts as well as what makes a person susceptible to bullshit, how to identify and defend against it, and what kind of people are the most and least likely to be bowled over by bullshit artists and other merchants of feel-good woo.”
“‘Fact-checking’ has become an increasingly popular way to fight back against the deluge of disinformation. Having originated in the US, the movement is growing throughout the world, from the information wars of Ukraine through to the Middle East and Latin America. It is a young discipline still working out how it can maximise its impact. In this paper we look at the different methodologies of two of the most advanced fact-checking organisations, Politifact and Full Fact, and see what lessons can be drawn from their experiences during the US Primaries and EU Referendum. We then look at the latest technological innovations in fact-checking, and make recommendations for how best to develop fact-checking across the world and especially in those countries and communities most at risk from the spread of false information.”
“In a study conducted by Eszter Hargittai and her colleagues at Northwestern University,102 college students went online to answer questions about things that matter to them—like how to advise a female friend who's desperate to prevent pregnancy after her boyfriend's condom broke. How did students decide what to believe? One factor loomed largest: a site's placement in the search results. Students ignored the sponsoring organization and the article's author, blindly trusting the search engine to put the most reliable results first.”
Twilio Lookup: “Know the details behind every phone number. Identify local-friendly number formats, reduce undelivered messages, and protect from spam and fraud.
Misinfocon: “Trust, Verification, Fact Checking & Beyond: MisinfoCon is a global movement focused on building solutions to online trust, verification, fact checking, and reader experience in the interest of addressing misinformation in all of its forms.”
HostCabi: A free tool to find out where websites are hosted.
Maltego: A program that can determine relationships and real world links between: People, Groups of people, social networks, Companies, Organizations, Web sites, Internet, infrastructure such as: Domains, DNS names, Netblocks, IP addresses, Phrases, Affiliations, Documents and files.
URLUncover: A free web app that reveals the actual destination of short, abbreviated URLs
WOT - Web of trust: Website reputation and review service that helps people make informed decisions about whether to trust a website or not. WOT is based on a unique crowdsourcing approach that collects ratings and reviews from a global community of millions of users who rate and comment on websites based on their personal experiences.
ScamAdviser: Free website service checks general credibility indicators of any website URL and provides a detailed info profile about it.
CheckSafeSite: Free website service aggregates check results from 25+ website verification services providing a detailed security and risk profile about any web site.
WhoRunsThis: Free Chrome browser extension allows to instantly find out the registered owner of a website and the parent company controlling that online property.
Truman Grade: Free Chrome extension checks and scores any website for risks of malware, privacy and data breaches, phishing, and for the credibility of the info it publishes.
Resurrect Pages: Free Firefox Add-on allows to recover broken URLs or dead web pages by searching through major caches and mirrors.
Find the Publishing Date of a Web Page: Instructions on how to find out the latest update to a web page as well as the most likely original publishing date.
See also: https://21cif.com/tutorials/micro/mm/date/page4.htm
Chrome extension: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/finitimus/ckdjcgaagfcnndkkknfmncedapdjaokb
Web Page lookup: look up the history of any web page; useful for tracking changes over time. Also a deep collection of TV news and live music. Note that if the website (or page) changes name, there’s no easy way to see where it went.
The Wayback Machine: Archive.org indexes hundreds of billions of websites from the past that might not exist anymore
ChangeDetection: Free web service monitors and tracks any changes occurring to a web page
Copyscape: Let’s you check for existing copies/duplicates of any web page
Cloud Monitor: Checks if the specified web site is accessible from other countries by pinging from over 30 monitoring stations across the world including Turkey, Egypt and China. If the ping results report 100% Packet Loss, it is likely that the site has been made inaccessible from Internet users in that region.
Whoishostingthis.com: Identifies the name of the hosting company for any web site you specify. Useful when you need contact information of a specific web site hosting provider.
MyIP.ms: Useful to get a comprehensive report for any web site. Find out hosting provider, physical location, IP address change history and DNS information.
Similarweb: The free version of this site gives five sites that refer to an address, and five sites people go from an address, and five organic keywords as well as some other traffic stats. It gives a feel for what the site is about
HowLongHaveYouBeenTweeting: To verify when a Twitter account was first created.
First Tweet: To verify who tweeted first about a subject/keyword/event.
Botornot: Checks activity of a Twitter account and gives it a score based on how likely the account is to be a bot.
Citizen Evidence Lab: it provides journalists and human-rights advocates with relevant tools and lessons to help them verify and authenticate user-generated video.
YouTube Newswire: “The YouTube Newswire is the comprehensive hub for eyewitness videos from emerging news events around the world on YouTube. The YouTube Newswire is curated by journalists at Storyful who discover and verify the best News, Weather and Politics content. The Storyful team ensures that every video on the YouTube Newswire goes through an extensive verification process that ensures the date, location and source are correctly identified.”
FirstDraftNewsCheck - Chrome extension walks you through verification steps to ensure image / video is trustworthy and provides you with tool to share verification results publicly.
InVID - helps journalists to verify content on social networks as a verification “Swiss army knife”.
The provided tools allow you to quickly get contextual information on Facebook and YouTube videos, to perform reverse image search on Google, Baidu or Yandex search engines, to fragment videos from various platforms (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Daily Motion) into keyframes, to enhance and explore keyframes and images through a magnifying lens, to query Twitter more efficiently through time intervals and many other filters, to read video and image metadata, and to apply forensic filters on still images.
Reading Resources (2)
The Baloney Detection Kit: Carl Sagan’s Rules for Bullshit-Busting and Critical Thinking