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Fake News: Defining Fake News

How to determine what is fake and what is real online.

What is Fake News?

According to the fact-checking website, Politifact:

"Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions and spread the word."

The advocacy group Media Literacy Now, in their 2020 report, says:

"Media Literacy is the literacy of the 21st century."

What is NOT Fake News?

Fake News does NOT include:

  • Mistakes -- Reporters make mistakes; legitimate reporters correct their mistakes.
  • Opinion articles -- A point of view, even with a bias, doesn't make it fake. Good opinion pieces, however, will reference solid factual information.
  • Facts we don't like! -- It's not fake just because it disagrees with you!

Types of Fake News

  • Fake or Hoax News -- Intentionally fabricated news stories
  • Misleading or Biased News -- News stories that report quotes, images, or statistics out of context. Some of these stories can be old stories that are re-reported with a new misleading headline.
  • Mimic Websites -- Fake news websites that mimic the look of trusted news sources in order to fool readers into thinking a story is real. Example: Fake Michigan newspapers
  • Satire -- Fake and ironic news stories that are intended to be funny or entertaining. Examples: The Onion, The Borowitz Report
  • Deepfakes -- Digitally altered videos created to show people doing and saying things they never actually did. Example: Mark Zuckerberg Deepfaked

Fake News is a Real Problem

In the run up to the last Presidential election (Aug - Nov 2016), fake news stories on Facebook were more widely shared and read than true mainstream stories. How big of a problem will this be this year?

This chart shows the top five election stories that were disseminated on Facebook during the 2016 election.

top five fake 2016 election stories

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