“Fake news” is not news you disagree with. The ability to tell accurate news from fake news is an important skill that you'll use your entire life. This guide will give you valuable insight in telling fact from fiction in print and online, plus a chance to exercise your newfound skills.
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 that 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.
The internet is a revenue-generating giant for advertisers, and some companies have found success in disguising their ads as news stories in website sidebars, feeds and at the footer of credible stories. You’ve surely seen the ads for “This one weird trick to help you lose weight.” Finding Good Health Information on the Internet can also be a slog through fake and biased information intended to sell you products. You can always trust Medline Plus for accurate, supported information on health issues.
You deserve the truth. You have every right to be insulted when you read fake news. You are smart enough to make up your own mind. Find the real facts, look at the real facts, and don't allow yourself to be lured in by others who want to sway your opinions.
Fake news destroys your credibility. If your arguments are built on bad information, it will be much more difficult for people to believe you in the future.
Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people. Purveyors of fake and misleading medical advice like Mercola.com and NaturalNews.com help perpetuate myths like HIV and AIDS aren't related, or that vaccines cause autism. These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.
Real news can benefit you. If you want to buy stock in a company, you want to read accurate articles about that company so you can invest wisely. If you are planning on voting in an election, you want to read valid and factual information on a candidate so you can vote for the person who best represents your ideas and beliefs. Fake news will not help you make money or make the world a better place, but real news can.