In Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning (2013), Stanford University scholars determined that most college, high school, and middle school students lack the ability to differentiate between advertisements, opinion pieces, and news articles. This problem tends to encourage citizens to base important opinions on untrue, incomplete, and unfair articles and ads, which many call fake or alternative news.
Our ability to differentiate fact from fiction gets harder as new sources of varying quality crop up overnight and fill our news feeds with headlines meant to attract attention rather than educate. Overuse of sensational headlines, uncited 'facts', and unrelated photos bombard our senses and distract us from reading carefully.
In addition, political parties from around the world overfill news feeds with fake information to push their agenda, which can persuade large groups of voters one way or another, as we have seen with Facebook and Instagram posts by Russian government officials.
To help us navigate factual, analysis, and opinion articles, refer to ad fontes media and Vanessa Otero's Media Bias Chart, Edition 4.0 (below) or the 5.1 interactive version (2020). To place a news source in the X axis (conservative versus liberal) and the Y axis (factual, analytical, unfair), Otero uses a metric that involves three main categories: Veracity, Expression, and Fairness. Read a detailed analysis of her method (2018) as well as an expert review of her work (Media Quality and Bias: The Newest Viral Media Graphic) by Professor Max Stearns of University of Maryland Carey School of Law (2018).