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Fake News

Use this research guide to help you identify fake news.

The News in "Post-Truth" World

In recent years fake and misleading news has become more prevalent. It is perhaps unsurprising that Oxford Dictionaries named "post-truth" as its 2016 "Word of the Year."

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.

This guide can help readers learn how to identify fake news, and evaluate news sources for accuracy and/or harmful bias.

What Kinds of Fake News Exist?

There are four broad categories of fake news, according to Melissa Zimdars, Assistant Professor of Communication at Merrimack College:

CATEGORY 1: 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. (examples:​

CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information. (examples:

CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions. (examples:

CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news. (examples:

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.

Fake News Sites to Avoid