Skip to main content

"Fake News," Misinformation, & Disinformation

How to identify (and avoid) inaccurate information.

Why Do Our Brains Love Fake News?

What Kinds of Fake News Exists?

There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of 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.

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

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

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

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. Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not. It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.

Adapted from Indiana University East

What Makes a News Story Fake?

What makes a news story fake? 1. You can't verify its claims; 2. Fake news appeals to emotion; 3. Authors usually aren't experts; 4. It can't be found anywhere else; 5. Fake news comes from fake sites

What about Deepfakes?

Deepfakes are a new and particularly challenging type of audio, video, or image disinformation, generally used in malicious ways. They have the potential to rapidly spread false words and actions to a global audience, and can be extremely difficult to distinguish from real content. 

What are deepfakes? Quoting from Merriam-Webster, "The term deepfake is typically used to refer to a video that has been edited using an algorithm to replace the person in the original video with someone else (especially a public figure) in a way that makes the video look authentic."