What is Fake News? How can you recognize it?

Shevon Desai, Hailey Mooney and Jo Angela Oehrli from the University of Michigan have created a Fake News Guide. The guide provides extensive data on what is fake news, how to recognize its various iterations and provides information on bias in the media.

Included in their guide is Claire Wardle, of FirstDraftNews.com, visual image below to help consumers of news think about the ecosystem of mis- and disinformation. Wardle provides seven general categories of fake news.

7 types of mis/disinformation

What Is Fake News?

Desai, Mooney and Oehrli state:

“Fake news” is a term that has come to mean different things to different people. At its core, we are defining “fake news” as those news stories that are false: the story itself is fabricated, with no verifiable facts, sources or quotes. Sometimes these stories may be propaganda that is intentionally designed to mislead the reader, or may be designed as “clickbait” written for economic incentives (the writer profits on the number of people who click on the story). In recent years, fake news stories have proliferated via social media, in part because they are so easily and quickly shared online.

Desai, Mooney and Oehrli also define mis and dis-information. Authors of mis- and dis-information include:

  • Someone wanting to make money, regardless of the content of the article (for example, Macedonian teenagers)
  • Satirists who want to either make a point or entertain you, or both
  • Poor or untrained journalists – the pressure of the 24 hour news cycle as well as the explosion of news sites may contribute to shoddy writing that doesn’t follow professional journalistic standards or ethics
  • Partisans who want to influence political beliefs and policy makers

The Fake News Guide is helpful in recognizing fake news.

What can I do about “fake news”?

Shevon Desai, Hailey Mooney and Jo Angela Oehrli suggest consumers of news:

  • Think critically. Use the strategies on these pages to evaluate the likely accuracy of information.
  • Think twice. If you have any doubt, do NOT share the information.

The Bottom Line

After reading the Fake News Guide I have determined that it is the individual reader who must decide what is fake news. It is not up to any social media site’s “community standards” to make this judgement. Why? Because they can be, and in many cases are, themselves biased.

In America an informed and educated citizenry is necessary to be able to think critically and think twice.

Fake News is the enemy of the people.

EDITORS NOTE: This column with images is courtesy of the University of Michigan. The featured photo is by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash.

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