Fake news (fl. 2016- ) is news that is untrue or misleading or just plain made up. Sometimes it is meant for laughs (The Onion), sometimes it is Macedonian students, say, trying to cash in on the Internet’s clickbait economy.
Facebook: For the past three months (since August 2016), the top 20 fake news stories on Facebook were getting more shares, reactions and comments than the top 20 real news stories! Most of the fake news favoured Donald Trump, then running for US president, while most of the true news stories favoured Hillary Clinton, who ran against him.
“Pope Francis shocks world, endorses Donald Trump for president”
“FBI agent suspected in Hillary email leaks found dead in apartment in murder-suicide”
“Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling”
“I ran the CIA. Now I’m endorsing Hillary Clinton”
Clickbait economy: The Internet currently favours news stories that get people to click on them, whether they are true or not. The two big reasons for this are Google and Facebook. Google helps by turning clicks into cold hard cash through its advertising. Facebook does it by pushing stories that its computer algorithms say are “trending”, regardless of their truth. In the US, 44% get their news from Facebook.
Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of media studies at Merrimack College, has started putting together a list of websites that are “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources”. Here is a bit of her list:
- Fake or regularly misleading: InfoWars, DCGazette.com.
- Sometimes misleading: Breitbart News, Blue Nation Review.
- Clickbait-y: Addicting Info, Red State, Breitbart News, Twitchy, Blue Nation Review, Occupy Democrats, The Free Thought Project.
- Satirical: The Onion, ChristWire.org, Borowitz Report (New Yorker), ClickHole, Cap News, Real News Right Now, Call the Cops, World News Daily Report.
- Other: Before It’s News, IJR, Inquistr, Lew Rockwell, The Blaze, The Daily Sheeple, World Net Daily, Project Veritas, Daily Wire.
Separately she lists:
- Sometimes hyperbolic: Huffington Post, Fox News, Daily Kos.
- Trustworthy but biased: New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Atlantic, NPR.
Big Media is biased. It mainly comes out in what they choose (not) to report (filtering). On the other hand, they can afford professional journalists, fact checkers and have a fear of libel laws.
Red flags of questionable news sites:
- Names that end in “lo”, like Newslo.
- Domain names that end in “.com.co”, like abcnews.com.co (pictured above).
- Stories that get you really angry.
- Bad web design.
- Use of ALL CAPS.
- Odd domain names.
- No author or source given.
- Read widely from a broad range of news outlets to avoid the bias of
any single one.
- Learn to separate fact from opinion. Blogs, even at trusted news outlets, are generally not fact-checked.
- If a story gets you really angry, google it to see who else, if anyone, is reporting it. It could well be fake, designed to get you angry enough to spread it.
- See what Snopes, RationalWiki, Fake News Watch and the Wikipedia say about a particular website. Check the website’s “About Us” page.
– Abagond, 2016.
Update (November 23rd): Added RationalWiki and Fake News Watch as debunking websites.
- debunking websites:
- the press
- Russian trolls
- media diet
- The Vast Talking Machine