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Fake News & Bad Info: Media Literacy Resources

Learn how language can be used to in a way that it affects the way people perceive reality. Unlike real news, whose purpose is to simply inform, the main purpose of fake news is to confuse and manipulate people.

What Does Fake News Look Like?

Fake News

  • Fake news may look very much like real news with a headline, main article, photo, etc. Fake news promotes real events as hoaxes, for example, COVID, climate change, the Holocaust, 9/11, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Fake news websites may look like their traditional counterpart, but instead of the URL ending in come, it may end in .co. 

  • Fake news promotes conspiracy theories such as Deep State, QAnon, Area 51, and the New World Order which have no basis in fact.
  • Fake news creators do not cite the source of their information, data, and statistics.
  • Fake news  promotes fake scientific methods (pseudoscience), to lose weight, grow hair, or even cure cancer. These "authors" do not list credentials for their “doctors” and “scientists.
  • Fake news promotes propaganda in the form of untruths or in the form facts taken out of out-of-context. The goal is to instill fear and provoke other strong emotions in order to create a specific response from an audience.
  • Fake news promotes disinformation produced by Fake News “factories” such as Disinfomedia, Macedonia, Russian hackers and bots, Russia’s Internet Research Agency, National Report, InfoWars, etc.
  • Fake news displays altered photos, audio, or video called deepfakes which makes it hard to distinguish between the genuine original and the fake copy..

Why is Fake News Created in The First Place?

fake news

What motivates the people who create fake news?

People create fake news for a variety of reason, in general for personal gain, such as power or money. The most common reasons are listed below.

  • To attract readers for their publications - articles about alien invasions, celebrity scandals, etc.
  • To make money or to profit – be aware that products and ideas are sold through online advertising that do not work.  These pay-per-view links advertise weight loss pills or other fraudulent medical cures or remedies, or get rich quick schemes that lure people into thinking they can make tens of thousands of dollars within a few months by doing affiliate marketing, posting links, becoming an entrepreneur, or author, etc. There is no short cut to earning money, only losing it.
  • To sway or manipulate opinion by inspiring fear or threat - health scares, fear of persons such as immigrants, gays, minorities, disabled etc.
  • To influence voters by use of propaganda, scare tactics, information of a biased or misleading nature, and used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view. Develop a fact-checking habit when it comes to politics. Realize that no candidate is perfect, but using aspects of the CRAP test can be a valuable guide for evaluating a candidate as well as a research source – look at each person’s credibility, reliability, qualifications, and their purpose for running for office.
  • To gain or maintain political, financial, religious power for themselves as opposed to genuinely wanting to serve a specific population.
  • SCARY NOTE: Fake news is shared more often than true information. Ask yourself, "Why?"

Who Believes Fake News?





Who Believes Fake News?



  • People who fear uncertainty.
  • People who are fearful and desperate.
  • People who trust their intuition or gut over fact or scientific data.
  • People who mistrust expertise, education, or experience in favor of the opinion of friends and family.
  • People who have difficult time rejecting misinformation- ego or ingrained beliefs.
  • People who are intolerant toward persons not like them.
  • People who unquestioningly accept all authority.

How Can I Tell the Difference Between Fake News & Real News?

Learn to Evaluate Information!

E - Evidence:  Do the facts hold up? Look for the facts to back up the story! They may involve  the names and roles of key individuals, dates and times, places, a specific event, an issue, a quote, a photograph, or any other type of evidence that backs up the story. Verify these facts by finding several other independent sources that reported the same set of facts. 

S - Source: Who created this? Can I trust them? Look for 1) the publisherthe newspaper, magazine, website or organization that published the story; 2) the author - the name and credentials of the person who wrote it the story. Are they qualified to write about the topic? 3) an information source - a person, document, or any source for the facts used in the story.

C - Context: What's the big picture? Identify the main issue or event of the story.

A - Audience: Who is the intended audience? What does the name of the publication or website tell you about the audience they are targeting? What does the content of the article tell you about the intended audience? Is it written in everyday language or complex words? What does the other content tell you about who the audience might be? Are their photos, illustrations, glossy pages? Do you think the intended audience helped shape the story?

P- Purpose: The purpose of a story meant to inform or educate contains specific sources, detailed facts, and complete information about the issue or event. The purpose of a story with a lot of ads or appeals for money or support is to earn money for the author or publisher. A story that uses emotional language - sentimental or extreme praise or criticism - appeals to certain groups or people may who align with a particular point of view and the story is intended to reinforce that perspective. 

E- Execution: How is the information presented? Is it clear? Does the tone sound objective or opinionated? Are the sentences well-written with correct spelling and grammar. Is the organized and easy to read or cluttered and chaotic?

Page Source:

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Miller, Michael, Fake News: Separating Truth From Fiction. Lerner Publishing Group, 2019

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