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Want to keep fake news out of your newsfeed? College professor creates list of sites to avoid

UPDATE: Nov. 17, 5:52 p.m.: The professor who created the list has taken down the Google doc. She said it was a safety measure in response to threats and harassment she and her students and colleagues had received. She is continuing to work on it and plans to release it in the future in a format other than a Google doc.

During the election, many people fell prey to fake news stories on social media -- even the president-elect ended up retweeting fake statistics. A professor of communication has created a list of unreliable news sites to help people do better.

Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, put together a publicly available Google doc cataloging "False, misleading, clickbait-y and satirical 'news' sources." It's been making the rounds on social media as people seek to cleanse their newsfeeds of misinformation.

Many of the sites on the list are aggregators – they take news stories from other sources and rewrite them with more inflammatory headlines and without contextual facts.

Breitbart, the "platform for the alt-right" whose chairman was just named Trump's chief strategist, is on there, as is InfoWars. Alex Jones, who runs InfoWars, said Trump personally called to thank him for helping him win the election.

The list also includes outright satirical sites like The Onion and less well-known ones like Christwire.org and Daily Currant, as well as some of the hyperpartisan Facebook pages notorious for sharing exaggerated, misleading, or outright false news, including Occupy Democrats and Addicting Info. (A BuzzFeed investigation last month found some fake news sites are seeded by Macedonian teenagers looking to make quick money off ads.)

Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.

Professor Melissa Zimdars

"Not all of these sources are always or inherently problematic, neither are all of them fake or false," Zimdars notes in the document. "... They should be considered in conjunction with other news/info sources due to their tendency to rely on clickbait headlines or Facebook descriptions, etc."

Farther down, she gives tips for how people can identify potentially fake news. Things like strange domain names, unusual domain extensions, and using ALL CAPS should be warning signs. And make sure to look for who else is reporting the news: "Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event."

Both Facebook and Google have recently announced they will take steps to block fake news sites from accessing their advertising services.

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