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library lesson: Recognizing Fake News

What You Will Learn

Woman number one: I just read that a woman gave birth to a two headed alien! Woman number two: You do know you can't trust everything you read on the Internet.

By the end of this lesson you will be able to:

  • Identify fake news

Check audio on your computer or have headphones ready.

Spotting Fake News

Types of News

Fake News: Sources that entirely fabricate information, disseminate deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports.

Satire: Sources that use humor, irony, exaggeration, ridicule, satire, and false information to comment on current events.

State-sponsored News: Sources in repressive states operating under government sanctions and control. Propaganda.

Junk Science: Sources that promote pseudoscience, metaphysics,* naturalistic fallacies, and other scientifically false or dubious claims.

Hate News: Sources that actively promote racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of bias and discrimination.

Clickbait: Sources that provide generally credible content, but use exaggerated, misleading, or questionable headlines, social media descriptions, and/or images.

Proceed With Caution: Sources that may be reliable but whose contents require further verification.

Political: Sources that provide generally verifiable information in support of certain points of view or political orientations.

Credible: Sources that circulate news and information in a manner consistent with traditional and ethical practices in journalism. (Remember: even credible sources sometimes rely on clickbait-style headlines or occasionally make mistakes. No news organization is perfect, which is why a healthy news diet consists of multiple sources of information).


Adapted from definitions used by Melissa Zimdars' Open Sources project that classifies websites for credibility.

Recognizing Fake News

What is Fake News?

Fake news is not news you disagree with.  "Fake news" is "fabricated information that mimics news media content in form but not in organizational process or intent. Fake-news outlets, in turn, lack the news media's editorial norms and processes for ensuring the accuracy and credibility of information. Fake news overlaps with other information disorders, such as misinformation (false or misleading information) and disinformation (false information that is purposely spread to deceive people)."Quoted by [David M. J. Lazer, et al., "The Science of Fake News," Science 09 Mar 2018: Vol. 359, Issue 6380, pp. 1094-1096.].

How it Works

What Can You Do?

What can I do about fake news? Be Informed, Not Influenced.

  • Investigate your sources
  • Become familiar with news sources that are accountable for their content
  • Learn to recognize your own biases
  • Stop and compare sources or stories before sharing especially if strong emotions are involved 

How Fake News Spreads