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Evaluating News: "Fake News" and Beyond: Fake News

What is Fake News?

"Fake news" is not a new thing. Have you ever seen a copy of the National Enquirer at the grocery store checkout line? Ever received a chain email making some crazy over-the-top claim (and asking you, of course, to share widely this information)?

The use of the term "fake news," however, has recently risen to popularity, with the term gaining most of its notoriety since the 2016 election. The term "fake news" has evolved to include all manner of sources intended to "promote false information, intentionally mislead readers, manipulate our emotions, and provide affirmation to our existing viewpoints and biases."

In addition, with the pervasiveness of various social media platforms and the ability to share such news with the mere click of a button, the proliferation of so-called "fake news" has really taken off. For these reasons, it is important for us to be ever vigilant in evaluating the information we receive from any news source.

Adapted with permission from Erica Nicol, Washington State University.

fake news scrabble letters

Image by wokandapix is licensed under a CC0 license.

Here are some different kinds of fake news:

  • Fake News or Hoax News: Stories that promote false information. While they may be loosely influenced by facts, these stories can't be verified. These stories often rely on language designed to get an emotional response (like outrage) from readers.
  • Clickbait: Outrageous headlines and stories designed to get readers to click open links to a particular webpage. These often try to manipulate emotions or elicit surprise. You've seen a lot of this already - it often involves politics or celebrities.
  • Hyper-partisan or Heavily Biased News: Stories that present facts, often carefully selected, through a biased perspective. There are different levels of bias, but credible reporters and news sites attempt to present facts with objectivity. 
  • News Parody/Satire: Stories that parody current events and reporting. While they often use false headlines, they are created to poke fun at current events or people, not to convince readers that the information is true.

Adapted with permission from Erica Nicol, Washington State University.

How to Spot Fake News infographic

How to Spot Fake News by IFLA is licensed under the CC BY 4.0 license.

Authority – Author, creator, producer, or publisher.

Bias - Prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

Blind Trust - The “skill” of believing what you're told, regardless of what you see.

Clickbait – A sensationalized headline or piece of text on the Internet designed to entice people to follow a link to an article on another web page.

Cognitive Dissonance – The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes.

Confirmation Bias – The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories.

Contemporary - Existing, occurring, or living at the same time; belonging to the same time.

Conspiracy theory – A theory that explains an event as being the result of a plot by a covert group or organization; a belief that a particular unexplained event was caused by such a group.

Crisis Actors - a trained actor, role player, volunteer, or other person engaged to portray a disaster victim during emergency drills to train first responders such as police, firefighters or EMT personnel.

Currency – Generally accepted, used, practiced, or prevalent at the moment

Disinformation - False information that is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media.

Empirical Evidence – Knowledge obtained through the use of the senses.

Fact – Reality or truth – something known to exist or have happened.

Fake News – News created to deliberately deceive its audience with false information.

False Flag - Covert operations designed to deceive; the deception creates the appearance of a particular party (group or nation) being responsible for some activity, disguising the actual source of responsibility.

Hoax – false information intentionally put out to deceive people.

Ideology - A system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.

Information -- knowledge communicated or received concerning a particular fact or circumstance.

Knowledge -- acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation.

Logical Fallacy – Errors in reasoning that undermine the logic of an argument.

Misinformation - False or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.

Native Advertising - material in an online publication which resembles the publication's editorial content but is paid for by an advertiser and intended to promote the advertiser's product.

Objectivity- (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

Opinion - A belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.

Peer-Review - The evaluation of work by one or more people of similar competence.

Post-Truth - Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

Primary Source – Any other source of information that was created at the time under study.

Propaganda – Bias or intentionally false information disseminated to influence public opinion for a political purpose.

Purpose – The reason the source was written.

Relevant – Closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered; appropriate to the current time, period, or circumstances; of contemporary interest.

Reliable – A source you can trust.

Satirical News – News programs with comedic overtones that are intentionally funny.

Scholarly – Written by an expert in a field for an audience of other experts in that field.

Subjective - Based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.

Supporting Sources/Corroborating Evidence – Sources that support something said in another source.


Glossary – adapted with permission from St. Joseph’s College LibGuide


Definitions from a variety of sources: St. Joseph’s College Library LibGuide,,,, and

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