Fake news spans across all kinds of media - printed and online articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, radio shows, even still images. New technologies and platforms to create and share information make it easy to create content that only appears authoritative, and then to spread it virally.
There are four broad categories of fake news, according to Melissa Zimdars, Assistant Professor of Communication at Merrimack College:
: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.
: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information.
: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions.
: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news.
No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.) Some articles fall under more than one category. It is up to you to evaluate media you find online.
Content from the following sources has been used and adapted throughout this guide:
University of Texas at Arlington Library Fake News LibGuide; Hillsborough Community College Library Fake News, Misleading News, Biased News LibGuide; Pierce College Library Fake News vs. Real News LibGuide; Harvard University Library Fake News, Misinformation & Propaganda LibGuide.