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Fake News: Introduction to Fake News

What "fake news" means, how to spot it, and how to avoid being duped.


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Fake News Defined


Disinformation - false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.¹

Disintermediation - the creator of the information is the only one who vets the information.²

Filter Bubble - A filter bubble is the intellectual isolation that can occur when websites make use of algorithms to selectively assume the information a user would want to see, and then give information to the user according to this assumption.³

Information Avoidance - two necessary criteria for avoidance (are necessary) to be classified as "active": (1) the individual is aware that the information is available, and (2) the individual has free access to the information or would avoid the information even if access were free.⁴ 

Information Literacy - (the ability) to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.

Misinformation - false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.  

Propaganda - ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause. Also, a public action having such an effect.⁷ 

Satisficing - selecting information that is "good enough" to satisfy basic needs, or choosing the first acceptable answer to a question or solution to a problem even if it means accepting a lower quality or quantity of information.² 

Spin - a particular way of representing an event or situation to the public so that it will be understood in a way that you want it to be understood.⁸ 

"When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear." - Thomas Sowell, Senior Fellow, Stanford University

Tips for Recognizing Fake News

Applying the CRAAP Test

Currency: The timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority: The source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
  • examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content.

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

Adapted from Sarah Blakeslee, California State University, Chico Meriam Library.

"Alternative facts and fake news are just other names for propaganda." - Johnny Corn, comedian

Types of Fake News

Types of Fake News

Claire Wardle of First Draft News identifies seven types of fake news:

  1. Satire or parody ("no intention to cause harm but has potential to fool")
  2. False connection ("when headlines, visuals or captions don't support the content")
  3. Misleading content ("misleading use of information to frame an issue or an individual")
  4. False context ("when genuine content is shared with false contextual information")
  5. Impostor content ("when genuine sources are impersonated" with false, made-up sources)
  6. Manipulated content ("when genuine information or imagery is manipulated to deceive", as with a "doctored" photo)
  7. Fabricated content ("new content is 100% false, designed to deceive and do harm")

"A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth." - Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda

Books on Fake News

Fake News Books

  1. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century - Yuval N. Harari
  2. Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News - Brad A. Schwartz
  3. Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News - Kevin Young
  4. Fake News: Separating Truth from Fiction - Michael Miller
  5. Fake News and Alternative Facts: Information Literacy in a Post-Truth Era - Nicole Cooke
  6. Information Literacy and Libraries in the Age of Fake News - Denise E. Agosto, editor
  7. It's Not News, It's Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap As News - Drew Curtis
  8. Skewed: A Critical Thinker's Guide to Media Bias - Larry Atkins
  9. The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote- Sharyl Attkisson
  10. The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on the Moral Panic in Our Time - Brooke Gladstone
  11. The Truth Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks - Bruce R. Bartlett



1. “Disinformation.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, 12 Apr. 2019, 10:21 am,
2. Cooke, Nicole A. Fake News and Alternative Facts: Information Literacy in a Post-Truth Era. ALA Editions, 2018.
3. “What Is a Filter Bubble? - Definition from Techopedia.”, 12 Apr. 2019, 10:47 am,
4. "Information Avoidance." Journal of Economic Literature 2017, 55(1), 96–135, 12 Apr. 2019, 11:06 am,
5. “LibGuides: Evaluating Information: Information Literacy.” Information Literacy - Evaluating Information - LibGuides at American Library Association, 12 Apr. 2019, 11:49,⁵
6. “Misinformation.”,, 12 Apr. 2019, 11:10 am,
7. “Propaganda.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, 12 Apr. 2019, 10:03 am,
8. “SPIN | Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary.” SPIN | Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary, 12 Apr. 2019, 11:33 am,