Can You Spot Misinformation?

Think you can beat the experts in spotting misinformation? Watch this short video and find out.

Jennifer Connell was called the “Worst Aunt Ever” on Twitter after she sued her cousin’s son over a broken wrist. But a version of events that spread quickly online (and earned her the nickname Auntie-Christ from a New York City tabloid) wasn’t entirely true.

False headlines. Exaggerated claims. Fishy-looking photos. If you’re not careful, the internet can serve up a tangle of misinformation. The short video above is part of a new Retro Report series that shows how to sort fact from fiction, sidestep online scams and stop the spread of misinformation.

This video shows how to use a technique called lateral reading to find the context behind eye-popping headlines and check the origin of sensational stories.

When you come across an article that might be too good (or too funny) to be true, experts suggest opening up new web browser tabs and conducting a search of the topic. Look for reliable websites and news stories that feature interviews with original sources.

In the case of Jennifer Connell and her lawsuit against her cousin’s son, reliable sources eventually set the record straight. After her injury, Connell required three surgeries, and suing was the only way she could get her cousin’s homeowner’s insurance to pay her medical bills. “This was simply a formality with an insurance claim,” she told Retro Report. There was no ill will in the family.

This video was made in partnership with Stanford History Education Group, Teaching Systems Lab and The Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life.

This project was funded by the National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator program.

Educators, click below for this story’s lesson plan and check out our education collection, Use the Internet to Check the Internet.

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For teachers
  • Producer/Narrator: Joseph Hogan
  • Editor: Heru Muharrar
  • Additional Editing: Cullen Golden

For Educators


Jennifer Connell was called the “Worst Aunt Ever” on Twitter after she sued her cousin’s son over a broken wrist. The story, full of misinformation and inaccuracies, went viral. This video and accompanying lesson plan helps students learn how to fact-check a sensational story using a technique called lateral reading.

Lesson Plan 1: Lateral Reading

Students will learn how to fact-check a sensational story using a technique called lateral reading.


Students will:

  • Explain how people can be misled by online information, and describe the consequences of misinformation.
  • Practice lateral reading skills and describe the process as applied to the provided examples.
  • Evaluate sources of digital information and provide a rationale for whether the information is misleading or not.
Essential questions
  • What is lateral reading, and how can this skill be used to evaluate articles and information found online?
    • What steps are necessary to engage in lateral reading?
    • What complementary skills are necessary for verifying information?
  • Common Core State Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.1:Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2:Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.4:Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.5:Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.8:Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.
  • National Council for the Social Studies C3 Framework
    • D1.4.9-12.Explain how supporting questions contribute to an inquiry and how, through engaging source work, new compelling and supporting questions emerge.
    • D1.5.9-12.Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of view represented in the sources, the types of sources available, and the potential uses of the sources.
    • D2.His.12.9-12.Use questions generated about multiple historical sources to pursue further inquiry and investigate additional sources.
    • D3.1.9-12.Gather relevant information from multiple sources representing a wide range of views while using the origin, authority, structure, context, and corroborative value of the sources to guide the selection.
    • D3.3.9-12.Identify evidence that draws information directly and substantively from multiple sources to detect inconsistencies in evidence in order to revise or strengthen claims.
    • D4.4.9-12.Critique the use of claims and evidence in arguments for credibility.