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Using lateral reading prevents the spread of disinformation

sheep in front of blackboard with wrong math answer
courtesy of Michal Matlon, Unsplash
Interactive showcase Friday, March 10

Join Albertsons Library’s Disinfo Squad for an interactive showcase of the students’ semester-long training as peer educators and social media influencers. The squad is working to counter the public’s vulnerability to disinformation. Each student will present a lightning talk and provide examples of their social media work, while engaging visitors in some of the games used in their training. The event will take place in room 201C from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Blog series

This article is the second in a series of blogs written by the Disinfo Squad, a disinformation research unit funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Elizabeth Ramsey, associate professor/librarian at Albertsons Library and Isaac Castellano, clinical assistant professor with the School of Public Service are two of the faculty members involved with the project.

Don’t spread disinformation

One of the most important skills to have in our current digital age is being able to check your sources and  make sure that you are not only consuming misinformation, but also not contributing to the spread of it. Whether you are writing a research paper for class, or seeing a breaking news post on social media, making sure the information presented is true is important. Not only does the spread of misinformation  create harm across the internet, but it can mislead your own research and understanding. So how can you know what is real and not on the internet nowadays? Well, professional fact checkers use a skill called lateral reading to uncover misinformation everyday. 

What is lateral reading?

In short, lateral reading is a skill that allows you to see if a website or posting is credible and if the information presented is true in a quick and efficient manner. Lateral readers and fact checkers don’t spend a lot of time on a website to determine whether it is credible or if the information is true. Instead, they use multiple tabs and searches to get a broader view and understanding of where and  why the information is being presented. Most people use something called vertical reading, which is where you scan the whole website from top to bottom like a printed document to try and determine its credibility. This is not only more time consuming, but it is less efficient and may not give you information on whether it is reliable or not.

Determining a website’s reliability 
  • Research the website or article you are investigating. Google the website or article and see what  others are posting about it. You can even use some fact-checking websites like, which allows you to look up articles to see if they are true.
  • Look up the author of the article to see their background and credibility for the topic presented in the article. Are they experts on the topic or have any credible background on the information?
  • Look up the publisher or organization. Do they have a certain agenda they might be posting for or have credibility on the topic? 
  • Don’t be fooled by the design layout or how professional it may look. Also avoid automatically trusting a .org or .gov site. It is a lot easier nowadays to make websites that look really professional and just because it is an organization, they may have ulterior motives for their article postings.  

Being aware and skeptical of information posted online will not only keep you safe from misinformation, but will help slow the spread of misinformation in our online community. So next time you are browsing the internet, instead of trusting every article or website, make sure to do some lateral reading to understand what information you are really consuming.  

Resources and other helpful websites reading/

by Alexis DeCarvalho, senior, College of Health Sciences