What is Fake News? How to Spot it and Fact Check it


Fake news is a constant threat. While fake news has always existed, it’s become more prominent in recent years. From politics to social media, fake news seems to be everywhere. So how do you know what is fake news versus what is real, hard facts?


No matter where you are in the world, you have likely been a victim of fake news. That’s why it’s so important to know how to detect fake news, how to combat fake news, and the impact of fake news.


Knowing the difference will help you seek and trust only credible news sources and information. Here’s how you can learn the difference between false information and truth!



What is Fake News?

Fakes news is intentional false information that is spread via traditional news media (print and broadcast) or online (social media and publications). Back in the day, fake news was known as yellow journalism. These days, social media and the rise of the internet have made fake news even easier to spread.


The goal of fake news is to mislead or damage a person, agency, entity, or to gain fiscal or political power. Fake news often contains made-up headlines or sensationalist writing styles.



False Information vs Fake News

Essentially, false information and fake news mean the same thing. However, the term “fake news” has political connotations and associations. When speaking formally, it is best to use the term “false information.”


While fake news has a political implication, false information touches on a wider net, including news that surrounds healthcare, the environment, economics, and more.



Social media icons on an iphone that have increased fake newsPhoto by dole777 on Unsplash



The Rise of False Information

As mentioned, false information is not a new concept. However, since 2017, it has gained traction because of politics and the media. With the internet, the process of publishing information has become democratized. As such, there’s a whole new way to share and consume information. These social networks have opened the door to information that can remain unchecked.


Before the internet and social media, journalism and newspaper publications existed with strict editorial guidelines and practices. Now, social media and the infinite places to share information have created a widespread stream of false information.



Where Does Fake News Come From?

Essentially, false information can come from anywhere. Any person with internet access has the capability to spread fake news.


The two main sources of fake news are:

  • Social media
  • Internet publications


The Different Types of False Information

Individuals and corporations have motives to spread false information for their own gain. There are different types of fake news that can be shared. They exist in the following categories:

  • Clickbait: These are stories with catchy and false headlines that promote a user to click on them to generate advertising revenue for websites. Clickbait uses sensationalized headlines to grab the user’s attention.
  • Parody: Social media accounts and websites exist as parodies and satire to make fun of how real news media works. For example, The Onion is a parody news source website. If people were not informed that The Onion exists for the sole purpose of satire, then they may mistake the headlines for news.
  • Propaganda: Propaganda is fake news with the goal of promoting a biased political view or agenda.
  • Poor journalism: If a journalist shares news without checking facts or sources, it could be considered fake news.
  • Social media sharing: Many social media users care about their following and amount of likes, so they may share news and information that is not verified to boost these counts.


Fake News by Topic

False information can be spread in all different categories of information. Some of the most common types of fake news regard the following:

  • To promote a political agenda
  • Sensational or extraordinary events for attention
  • Celebrity information
  • To try to sell something
  • To induce fear
  • To spread racism
  • To spread sexism
  • To pass around myths and conspiracies
  • Pranks and satires
  • Opinions presented as facts

Despite the broad array of fake news, a major key to remember is that just because you don’t agree with an opinion, that does not make it fake news!



How to Detect Fake News

If you’re unsure of how to spot fake news, try these methods when you read any kind of information:

  • Take a close look: Take a look at the source of the news. Is it reputable and can it be trusted?
  • Move past the headline: Headlines are often sensationalized, especially in clickbait. Be sure to read past the headline.
  • Check other sources: See if the news is available from other sources.
  • Check the facts: Fake news may be an old story that is being republished or could be discovered by analyzing dates and times. Be sure to check the basic facts rather than accept them at face value.
  • Check your biases: Perhaps your own biases and judgments are causing something to be off. Just like news is supposed to be objective, try to read information objectively, too.
  • Is it a joke? This can often be ruled out by checking the source, but be sure you aren’t reading a parody site or satirical headline as if it were real news.


Impact of Fake News

Fake news can have some real consequences. The impact of fake news can be far-reaching, especially because it can spread so quickly. The outcome of fake news can cause negative effects on:

  • Finances
  • Health
  • Racism
  • Bullying


What Can We Do About False Information?

On an individual level, people need to hone their critical thinking and research skills to combat fake news. Organisations and social media sites like Google and Facebook are trying to crack down on fake news by introducing flagging tools and new measures.


As children are raised, it’s important to explain the differences within media and the nuances of information. This way, they can be educated on false information and be a factor in preventing its spread.



Organizations and Resources

There are several resources that exist to help fight against the spread of false information.


These include:



UoPeople man looking at news headlines on newspapersPhoto by Filip Mishevski on Unsplash



Sources of News

Looking for trustworthy news sources? Here are a few sources of news to consider using:


The Verdict

Social media and the internet have helped to play a role in the spread of fake news. Once you understand the fake news impact, you can help to fight against it by performing your own due diligence. Remember, don’t trust everything you read and see blindly.


It’s important to make sure that the sources are credible and check who else is reporting information. If something seems too hard to believe, then trust your gut!