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What Is Fake News?
What is Fake News?
Fake news is what it sounds like, stories that are published that are not based on facts.
Types of Fake News
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. It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.
Do You Know Fake News When You See It?
Do You Know Fake News When You See it?
Fake news would not be a problem if people knew it when they saw it. It matters because most people have trouble identifying fake news.
A Pew Research study (link below) showed that 64% of Americans had a great deal of confusion with an additional 24% having some confusion. That's a lot!
Fake News More Engaging than Real News
In fact, the chart below demonstrates that fake news can get more traction than real news. During the 2016 Presidential election, fake news stories on Facebook were viewed 1.4 million times more than real news stories.
(click the chart to see it full size)
Why Care about Fake News?
Why Should You Care About Whether Or Not Your News Is Real or Fake?
- You deserve the truth. You are smart enough to make up your own mind - as long as you have the real facts in front of you. You have every right to be insulted when you read fake news.
- Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people. Purveyors of fake medical advice like Mercola.com and NaturalNews.com help perpetuate myths like HIV and AIDS aren't related, or that vaccines cause autism. These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.
- Real news can benefit you. If you are writing a research paper, your professor will expect you to vet your sources. If you are planning on voting in an election, you want to read as much good information on a candidate so you can vote for the person who best represents your ideas and beliefs. Fake news will not help you get a good grade or make the world a better place, but real news can.