Skip to Main Content

Media Literacy

Fake News

Don't be fooled!  Learn about Fake News ... what it is and how to spot it!

What is Fake News?

Fake News is not a new term; however, it is a term that has recently gained popularity.  Fake news refers to news and information items that purposely intend to mislead the reader(s) and to spread false information.   Evaluating the quality of the content you find is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not.   You must be a critical consumer of the information that you find!

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.

(Adapted from  Indiana University East Campus Library Guide  November  2017)

Types of Questionable/Fake News Sources

Types of Questionable News Sites based on Melissa Zimdar's OpenSources Project:

Fake News: Sources that entirely fabricate information, disseminate deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports.

Satire: Sources that use humor, irony, exaggeration, ridicule, and false information to comment on current events.

‘Extreme’ Bias: Sources that come from a particular point of view and may rely on propaganda, decontextualized information, and opinions distorted as facts.

Conspiracy: Sources that are well-known promoters of kooky conspiracy theories. Ex: 9/11 conspiracies, chem-trails, lizard people in the sewer systems, birther rumors, flat earth ‘theory,’ fluoride as mind control, vaccines as mind control etc.

Rumor Mill: Sources that traffic in rumors, gossip, innuendo, and unverified claims.

State News: Sources in repressive states operating under government sanction.

Junk Science: Sources that promote pseudoscience, metaphysics, naturalistic fallacies, and other scientifically dubious claims.

Hate News: Sources that actively promote racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.

Clickbait: Sources that provide generally credible content, but use exaggerated, misleading, OR questionable headlines, social media descriptions, and/or images. These sources may also use sensational language to generate interest, clickthroughs, and shares, but their content is typically verifiable.

Proceed With Caution: Sources that may be reliable but whose contents require further verification or to be read in conjunction with other sources.

Political: Sources that provide generally verifiable information in support of certain points of view or political orientations.

Credible: Sources that circulate news and information in a manner consistent with traditional and ethical practices in journalism (Remember: even credible sources sometimes rely on clickbait-style headlines or occasionally make mistakes. No news organization is perfect, which is why a healthy news diet consists of multiple sources of information).

**OpenSources is a curated resource for assessing online information sources, available for public use. Websites in this resource range from credible news sources to misleading and outright fake websites. Headed by Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College, our research team is dedicated to preserving the integrity and enhancing the transparency of information on the internet. (from website)