Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here


Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

10 Ways to Spot Fake Videos and Falsehoods on the Internet

You can’t always believe what you see on the web, but you can learn to sleuth out the truth

spinner image word bubbles showing the words fake and facts on red keys embedded in a gray keyboard
AARP/Getty Images

In 1993, The New Yorker magazine published a cartoon with the caption, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

Almost 30 years later, that line might be rewritten: “On the internet, nobody knows who you are or that what you are saying is true.” Figuring out what’s real and what’s not is getting even harder in cyberspace, especially when artificial intelligence (AI) and visual effects are used to make fake photos and videos look authentic.

More than 6 of 10 adults in a Google-supported global survey think they see false or misleading information online every week. The three youngest generations that aren’t young children — Generation Z, millennials and Gen X — feel “slightly more confident” in identifying false or misleading information than baby boomers, who are ages 58 to 76, or the Silent Generation, ages 77 to 93, according to the study that the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and the YouGov market research firm released this month.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

“I think, as someone who works in this field and who spends a lot of time with fact-checkers, that [misinformation online] is worse” today, says Alex Mahadevan, director of Poynter’s MediaWise media literacy initiative.

Mahadevan cites political polarization and advances in technology as chief factors behind the increase in misinformation. The amplification of falsehoods through social media has exacerbated the problem.

Do you know how to verify what you see?

Worldwide, just over half (54 percent) of the respondents to another survey say they worry about identifying the difference between real news and fake on the internet, according to a recent report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University. But 61 percent of people who say they mainly use social media as a source of news are worried, while only 48 percent of those who don’t use social media at all share that concern.

“We’re all vulnerable to misinformation,” says Hannah Covington, senior manager of education design at the nonpartisan News Literacy Project in Washington, D.C. The program provides free resources, including quizzes, to teach people how to identify credible news.

“We know that young people struggle to identify misinformation. We know that older folks have also struggled to identify misinformation,” she says. “Misinformation targets people on the political right, on the left. It comes from foreign sources, domestic sources.”

MediaWise also offers free online courses that may help folks spot misinformation. In 2020, AARP partnered with MediaWise on a MediaWise for Seniors initiative that includes free self-guided online courses with journalists Christiane Amanpour of CNN and Joan Lunden.


Here are recommendations from experts that may help you recognize falsehoods online.

React to facts. Don't give in to outrage

1. Pay attention. “Research shows when people are paying attention to whether something is credible or not, they’re much better at detecting misinformation than when they’re not paying attention,” says Matt Groh, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s MIT Media Lab. Asking yourself whether something is true will lead you to examine the source as well as that source’s motivation.

2. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Did something you came across online or on social media anger you? Did it make you sad or afraid? It’s a good idea to pause and not respond immediately, Covington says. Don’t amplify anything you can’t verify by sharing it.

3. Don’t equate likes with truth. “Likes and shares do not equal credibility,” Covington says. Instead, she recommends examining the comments associated with a social media post to see whether people have debunked the post, called information into question or replied with a fact-check.

See more Health & Wellness offers >

Suss out when you’re being manipulated

4. Be on alert for deepfakes. Seeing is not always believing. Deepfakes are media that appear to show a person doing or saying something that in actuality they haven’t done or said. Such videos have been doctored, often by swapping one person’s face for another’s.

Look for red flags. A face swap may alter a face but not a subject’s neck, fingers, ears, hair or body, Groh explains. For instance, some deepfakes of Tom Cruise showed the actor with unattached earlobes; his are attached. “I point it out as a single example of showing an inconsistency,” Groh says. You may see other subtle signs that a video has been altered.

Body movements may look unnatural, or a normally animated subject may barely move. You may see blurred video or funky scene cuts. Skin may appear too smooth or too wrinkly compared to the age of the eyes and hair.

Still, Groh cautions that just because a video is grainy or blurry doesn’t mean it’s a deepfake. “One of the really sinister things about deepfakes is they get people questioning whether any real video is actually real,” he says. Through AI and ever-more-sophisticated visual effects artists, deepfakes may become even harder to detect.

If you understand how such deepfakes are produced, you may begin to notice the stuff that’s somehow off. MIT Media Lab built a Detect Fakes website where you can check out a variety of audio, transcripts and video of presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Half of these media snippets are real; half are fabricated. You can take a stab at determining which are which, and via a slider indicate your level of confidence that you got it right.

5. Be wary of screenshots. Doctored screenshots of web pages from major news organizations are out there, too. If you see screenshots without a link to the original story, that’s a red flag, Covington says. Always seek out the live story in its original context.

6. Search using a photo. Employ a reverse image search to learn more about a picture’s origin. Visit, click the camera icon 📷, and either drag or upload an image or paste its URL. If you have an Android phone or tablet, open the Google app or Chrome app, go to the website with the image, touch and hold on the image, and tap Search image with Google Lens. Reverse image searching is also available on such third-party websites as

By taking advantage of reverse image search tools, you might learn what credible news outlets or a site such as can tell you about an image. You also may discover the age of the picture and be able to tell if it was manipulated.

Find the best source

7. Check out the information’s origin. If you come across an unfamiliar source in your search results, perhaps a less well-known news organization or medical website, and want to confirm that it’s trustworthy, do a quick search to see what other credible sources say about that site. This skill is called lateral reading.

8. Consult other Google search tools. Descriptive Featured snippets that highlight a piece of information about your query, including its source, often accompany Google search results.

Google recently announced that by using its latest AI models, it can now understand the notion of consensus: when multiple high-quality sources on the web all agree on the same fact. This promises to improve the quality of featured snippets.

The AI models also help Google understand when a featured snippet might not be the most helpful way to present information. For example, the query “When did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln” correctly provided a snippet identifying John Wilkes Booth as Lincoln’s assassin. But Google has determined that answering questions with a false premise accurately is not the best way to surface results and is now training its systems to detect these faulty searches.

spinner image a screenshot showing google's tool for addressing sources

Google is also improving its About This Result tool, which provides context to search results. You can summon About This Result by clicking or tapping on the three vertical dots ⋮ next to a search result or by swiping up in the Google app on your phone. About This Result now will reveal how widely a source is circulated, online reviews about a source or company, whether a company is owned by another entity, and even when Google’s systems cannot get much information about a source.

Let news develop

9. Practice patience. Sometimes news travels faster than the known facts about an ongoing event. Google has started to issue what it calls content advisories that indicate you might be better off checking back later when it has a higher level of confidence in search results.

“This doesn’t mean that no helpful information is available, or that a particular result is low quality,” Pandu Nayak, Google vice president of search, wrote on a Google blog. “These notices provide context about the whole set of results on the page, and you can always see the results for your query, even when the advisory is present.”

10. Ask three simple questions. To avoid the trap of misinformation, start with three questions from the Stanford History Education Group, says Mahadevan of MediaWise.

  • Who is behind the information?
  • What’s the evidence?
  • What are other sources saying?  

Ask those, and “there is a very good chance that you will not be fooled, whether it is a phishing attempt [or] a doctored video of Joe Biden,” he says.

This story, originally published Aug. 17, 2022, was updated to correct the age ranges for baby boomers and the Silent Generation.

Edward C. Baig is a contributing writer who covers technology and other consumer topics. He previously worked for USA TodayBusinessWeekU.S. News & World Report and Fortune, and is author of Macs for Dummies and coauthor of iPhone for Dummies and iPad for Dummies.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?