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How to identify and avoid fake news

What is Fake News?


  • Fake News IS - intentionally misleading hoaxespropaganda, and disinformation purported to be real news often using social media to amplify effect.
  • Fake News IS NOT - simply news that someone does not like or does not agree with or is viewed as negative. Fake news is not "fake" because you don't like what is being reported; it is "fake" because it is intentionally, purposefully misleading.

The ability to tell accurate news from fake news is an important skill that you'll use for the rest of your life.  This guide will give you insight in telling fact from fiction, plus a chance to exercise your new found skills. 


What kinds of fake news exist?

There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.

CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.

CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information

CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions

CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news

No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.)  Some articles fall under more than one category.  Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not.   It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

Thanks to KT Lowe, librarian at Indiana University East, for creating the original guide of which this one is based.

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