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Fake News and Media Literacy

Resources and strategies for becoming media literate.

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Bovee and Thill. (2018). Social Media.

What is Fake News?

What Fake News is . . .

Fake news is inaccurate, false, or misleading information about current events.  Varieties of fake news include click bait, satire, misinformation, propaganda, disinformation, and malinformation.


What Fake News is Not . . .

Fake news is not negative news stories that you do not like or mistakes made by journalists.  Scholars and researchers often use the term 'misinformation' in place of  'fake news' due to the frequent misuse of 'fake news' in political discourse.  


Varieties of Fake News


Click bait

Click bait includes news stories with sensationalistic headlines designed to drive traffic to a website through mouse clicks.  These headlines often manipulate the emotions of readers by using anger, anxiety, humor, or surprise to prompt them to click links.  Click bait generates revenue for online advertisers and distributes news on social media platforms.


Satire uses humor - often irony - to expose and critique the dark sides of powerful people, institutions, and systems.  Satire and irony assume the audience is 'in on the joke' and understands the hidden meaning of the news story.  As a news consumer, it is critical to identify when satirical news is purposefully presenting 'fake news' or distorting facts as a rhetorical device.


Misinformation is untrue or misleading information that is published accidentally or published without the intent to misinform.


Propaganda is a news management technique that manipulates the thoughts, beliefs, values, attitudes, and actions of an audience by presenting biased information that benefits some special interest.  Propaganda often uses entertainment as a means of distributing misleading information.


Disinformation is the intentional distribution of misleading, inaccurate or fabricated information for the purpose of manipulating public opinion to benefit a special interest.  


Malinformation is genuine information that is shared to cause harm.  This harm often occurs when information designed to stay private is moved into the public sphere.