News Literacy

What's wrong with Fake News?

Why should you care about whether or not your news is real or fake?

  1. 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, because you are in essence being treated like an idiot.
  2. Fake news destroys your credibility.  If your arguments are built on bad information, it will be much more difficult for people to believe you in the future.
  3. Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people.  Purveyors of fake and misleading medical advice like and 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.
  4. Real news can benefit you.  If you want to buy stock in a company, you want to read accurate articles about that company so you can invest wisely.  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 make money or make the world a better place, but real news can.

What makes a story fake?

1. You can't verify its claim 
A fake news article may or may not have links in it tracing its sources; if it does, these links point only internally to the site's domain or may not contain information pertinent to the article topic. 

2. Fake news appeals to emotion
Fake news plays on your feelings - it makes you angry or happy or scared. This is a strategy to stop you from doing fact checking. 

3. Authors usually aren't experts
Most authors are not journalists. If they are experts, it's often not in the field relevant to the topic discussed. 

4. It can't be found anywhere else
The main idea of a fake news article may not be found in any other news outlets (real or fake)

5. Fake news comes from fake sites 
The URL is close enough to a main stream outlet to appear legit (e.g.

Adapted with permission from Fake News Guide created by K.T. Lowe at Indiana University East 

Types of fake news

Categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars

CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites 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.)  

Adapted with permission from Fake News Guide created by K.T. Lowe at Indiana University East 

Known fake, parodic, and misleading news sites