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Fake News & Fake Facts: Media Literacy Awareness

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 disinformation is to confuse and manipulate people.


Forms of Disinformation

Fake News






  • covers a wide range of topics that are purposefully distorted for the purposes of spreading disinformation.
  • spread in many areas beyond politics (see the list below)

Junk News, Hoax News, or Pseudo-News

  • alternate terms for "fake news"
  • may seem plausible or legit
  • created to purposefully and deliberately to spread false information
  • digital news has dramatically expanded both the spread of and audience for this type of information

Image: political mailer created to look like a newspaper

The front page of the "Buckeye Reporter," a political mailer that appears to look like a community newspaper.

The Buckeye Reporter is part of a network owned by a company called Metric Media that has caught the interest of disinformation researchers by launching hundreds of local-branded websites across the country that promote Republican candidates and causes during election cycles. - Source: Andrew Tobias,  "Wondering why you got a copy of the ‘Buckeye Reporter’ in the mail? Here’s more about the pseudo news network behind it." August 1, 2023,


  • provide some credible content, but distort it by exaggerating, misleading, or questionable headlines, social media descriptions, and/or images
  • deliberately created to attract as many website visitors as possible
    • the more clicks, the more advertising money is made for these websites

image clickbait adImage clickbait ad jewelery

Yellow Journalism or Tabloid Journalism

  • these are newspapers that present little or no credible or well-researched news
  • purpose is to scare people with misleading headlines, altered images, made-up interviews, and fake experts
  • target a low-information and vulnerable audience who tend not to question what they are reading, or simply may be entertained by it.
  • exist purely to increase sales and revenue for the publisher.

cover image national enquirer cover image weekly world news

Bothsidesism (False Equivalence)

  • the practice in the media of presenting "both sides" of an issue regardless of evidence, facts, or the credibility of sources
  • treats issues as equal or equivalent - 50-50 - when they may not be  (facts vs. conspiracy theories 
    •  97 % of scientists agree agree that human behavior are causing global warming and climate change 
    • COVID treatment: fact-based (Remdesivir) vs. conspiracy theories (bleach, hydroxychloroquin)
  • an prompt one of three problematic results:

    • creates doubt about what people think they know

    • creates confusion: “I don’t know what’s true, so nothing’s” true.

    • creates reliance: “Someone’s arguing that climate change is not a worry, so that must be a valid idea."

Satire or Parody

  • use humor, irony, exaggeration, ridicule, satire, and false information to comment on current events. They 
  • purposefully fake news sources to entertain, not to inform or educate

Image SNL Weekend Updateimage New Yorker column "satire" "not the news"

State-Sponsored News

  • a form of propaganda that exists under authoritarian or totalitarian regimes, which publishes news under strict control
  • audience is told what to think about events and ignore what they see or know to be true
  • examples - Russia, Hungary, Turkey

cover image authoritarian hungary president victor orbancover image russian newspaper putin

Junk Science

  •  this type of false information promotes ideas that claim to be science-based (psuedo-science), but are not
    • uses legit sounding "scientific data and facts"
  • the belief that if something is "natural" it is good (naturalistic fallacy) 
  • purpose is to generate revenue and profit for the creators

Image Junk science weight-loss pill made from human placentaImage 4 natural cancer treatments

Deepfakes / AI

  • a form of visual, voice, or textual deception
  • created with digital software, machine learning (artificial intelligence),and face swapping technology
  • may be combined to create new footage that depicts events, statements or action that never actually happened
  • Image - Deep fake used to create LinkedIn profile pic

Image Source: Raphael Satter, ‘"Experts: Spy used AI-generated face to connect with targets"’, AP News, 14 June 2019, online.

What Can We Do About Disinformation?

Key Questions

  • How do you know?
  • What evidence do you have?
  • Will it hold up to scrutiny?"

How Civil Society Can Combat Disinformation and Hate Speech Without Making it Worse?

Bookcover - Combatting Misinformation

The 3Ds of Disinformation -- Detect, Document, and Debunk

Detect: In the detection phase, we investigate suspicious sources to determine if it is legitimate and representing itself accurately.

Document: In this phase we compile the evidence and document the details that verify the sources is not legitimate or accurate.

Debunk: We assess the impact on the misinformation on specific issues, and demonstrate how it causes harm to individuals, communities, population groups, states, and countries.

An in-depth look at this topic is presented in this 11-page eBook (linked below):

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