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What are the best fact-checking websites for students?

Society has never had such an abundance of information available at its fingertips. Type a few words into the search engine of your choice, and you’ll instantly discover more sites than you care to know existed.

We’re constantly being bombarded by information online, even when we’re not looking for it. Social media articles and ads do their best to entice us with juicy tidbits of gossip or random news.

One of the major problems with this easily accessible feast of knowledge is that it doesn’t always pass media fact-check tests — information also comes with misinformation.

So how do you weed through the data dump and find the facts buried in all the fiction? And more importantly, how do you teach your students to do the same?

One way to address this challenge is by practicing and teaching critical-thinking skills.

Another way is to show your students how to properly use fact-checking sites.

News on tablet with newspaper in background
Photo: Unsplash

9 fact-checking sites for students

Before I dive into the sites themselves, it’s important to recognize that everyone has biases. And while we may do our best to set them aside as we search for the truth, even the writers of fact-checking sites will have a tendency to operate based on their personal views. This preference will largely show up in politically-oriented sites, in the form of which facts and political figures are fact-checked the most.

1. Hoax-Slayer

While this site does have a political category, its primary purpose is to expose and “slay” the many scams and hoaxes that are running rampant on the internet. Besides covering categories like health and wellbeing, bogus warnings, and faux images and videos, Hoax-Slayer also strives to educate its users on security issues and how to protect themselves from various scams.

Student friendliness: moderately high

  • No inappropriate headlines or images seen while perusing the site
  • A search bar and category pages make it easy to direct students to the content you want them to see
  • Articles include a short description of the claim, a brief analysis of the claim, and a more detailed analysis with pictures

2. Snopes

Snopes lays claim to being the oldest online fact-checking site and was originally founded for “investigating urban legends, hoaxes, and folklore.” Its stories cover a range of subjects, and the sources are documented so users can verify the fact-checked information on their own.

Student friendliness: medium

  • Students may occasionally run into questionable headlines and images due to the site’s general nature
  • Though a large search bar at the top encourages users to hunt for specific content, the rest of the stories aren’t categorized. Instead, the site is organized according to news-related stories, new stories, and popular stories (the Hot 50)
  • Stories begin with a brief statement of the claim, provide a rating of the claim’s reliability, describe the origin of the claim, and then launch into a description of how Snopes came to the conclusion that said claim is false

And now, on to the political sites!

3. PolitiFact 

PolitiFact, as its name suggests, is largely focused on politics. However, it also includes a broad variety of other subjects that are organized alphabetically. The site’s Truth-O-Meter provides an overview of the fact-finding conclusions.

Student friendliness: high

  • Pictures aren’t shown unless you click on the article
  • A search bar and category pages make it easy to direct students to the content you want them to see
  • Content is initially summarized with a brief statement and a picture of the Truth-O-Meter to improve the browsing experience. A more detailed description is provided once you click on the article

4. FactCheck

This site describes itself as a “nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” With this mission, FactCheck is clearly focused on fact-checking American politics.

Student friendliness: moderately high

  • Pictures for the articles are innocuous, as are the political topics
  • A search bar enables you to look for desired content, but articles are not categorized. Instead, the facts are divided into featured posts, fact-checked posts, SciCheck, debunking false stories, and the 2020 election. A sidebar includes a few more category distinctions such as health, false Facebook stories, and the State of the Union address
  • Articles are detailed, and there isn’t a summarized version. Fact-checked information is linked so students can verify the facts themselves
  • *Special feature: Newsfeed defenders, a media literacy game complete with lesson plans teachers can use to instruct students how to recognize false information

5. AllSides

Like the sites mentioned above, AllSides claims to provide a balanced perspective from ‘all sides’ of a given political issue. The fact-checking element is its unique way of providing articles that show what each side — the liberal left, conservative right, and those in the middle — think about various issues. A media bias comparison chart shows where the major news providers fall in terms of their political biases. By reading articles from each side about the same issue, students can get a bigger picture of the problem and start to understand why each group might perceive any given issue the way they do.

Student friendliness: high

  • Images and headlines are appropriate and are very much similar to what you’d read in a newspaper
  • The Topics menu allows students to search for political articles under categories such as education, energy, environment, and immigration
  • The introduction for each story includes a headline, topic sentence, and headlines from three different perspectives: left, right, and center
  • Clicking on each article allows you to see a general statement of the situation, along with a short excerpt from the three different articles
  • *Special feature: AllSides for Schools offers lesson plans and classroom activities with the mission of giving educators tools, resources, information, and curricular guidance to help students build skills in news literacy, bias awareness, critical thinking, and conversation across difference

If you want to dive deeper into what the major political divisions think, you can visit the self-proclaimed liberal fact-checking site Media Matters, which is focused on fact-checking conservative political claims, and the conservative fact-checking site NewsBusters, which does the same with claims from liberals.

Alternatively, you could have your students go directly to the source. Instead of having them visit sites that put in the time and effort to hunt down relevant documents to prove or disprove claims, you can show your students how to find some of those primary documents themselves!

6. The World Factbook

Hosted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The World Factbook houses information about world history, governments, cultures, geography, and the like. Search categories include World Travel Fact, One Page Country Summaries, Regional and World Maps, Flags of the World, and Country Comparisons.

Student friendliness: high

  • No danger of inappropriate images
  • Fast and easy icon-based search options. Everything is alphabetized by country.
  • Information is arranged by topic and is given in short paragraphs, succinct notes, or in bullet points
  • *Special Feature: Spy Kids includes a place for teachers to get lesson plans and other resources, as well as a place for students to access games, stories, and fun facts about real-life spy dogs

7. Internet Archive

Internet Archive is an online library with access to books, movies, software, music, websites, and images from all over the world.

Student friendliness: medium

  • Some images aren’t student-friendly, especially in the video category
  • Although there is a search bar and topic divisions within some of the main categories, it can be tedious to find information. You really need to know what you’re looking for

8. The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress offers access to millions of printed materials from all over the world. It is, in fact, the largest library in the world. Besides books, you can also find photographs, maps, and newspapers.

Student friendliness: moderately high

  • There aren’t many images, and the ones that do show up are appropriate
  • The search bar includes a drop-down menu to easily select the type of resource you’re looking for.
  • Electronic resources are noted. Some of the electronic versions link over to the Internet Archive
  • *Special Feature: Teacher resources, including lesson plans that teach students how to find and use primary sources

9. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

NARA contains important documents related to the business of the United States federal government. Topics you can find include ancestral information, military records, investigations, foreign policy, people, and places.

Student friendliness: moderately high

  • There aren’t many images, and the ones that do show up are appropriate
  • A search bar and eye-catching, easy-to-read icons make the hunt for information more user friendly
  • Some of the search links take you directly to the source, while others involve a bit more reading and clicking to find what you’re looking for
  • *Special Feature: Educational Resources for teachers, including lesson plans and worksheets to teach students how to find and use primary sources

Two more places to find American governmental statistics and information are the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The truth is out there — teach students how to find it!

The internet has a tendency to give us more information than we want. However, if we hone in on our objective, the process of finding information becomes much more manageable. So figure out what you’re looking for in a fact-finding site, peruse this list for which ones seem like the best fit, and dive in!

Photo: Unsplash

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