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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.

The Problem with Fake News, Misinformation, Disinformation, and Propagand

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."

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The words belong to former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and they have a haunting quality in our own age of poisoned public discourse. Here’s another Moynihan contribution: “defining deviancy down.” It captures the way standards and expectations, as they fall, become accepted at each new, lower level as somehow “normal.”

Terms Related to "Fake News"

Do you know these terms related to "fake news"?

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  • Taking direct responsibility, by name, for the truthfulness and the reliability of the report.


  • Confirmation Bias -  describes the underlying tendency to notice, focus on, and give greater credence to evidence that fits with our existing beliefs; seeking out information to confirm what we already believe

  • Media Bias - a pattern of unfairness or willful inaccuracy over time by a specific journalist or news outlet. It cannot be proven by a single isolated incident.

  • Audience Bias - describing the tendency of individuals to see bias in news media reports because they are unconsciously viewing journalism through their own biases; a key element of Audience Bias is Cognitive Dissonance (see below)


  • A sensationalized headline that encourages you to click a link to an article, image, or video

Cognitive Dissonance

  • The discomfort a person feels when confronted with information that doesn't align or conform with their beliefs, viewpoint, or understanding of the truth. It can result in people disregarding, dismissing, blocking or warp incoming new information that does no


  • Information that is necessary to understand the scope, impact, magnitude or meaning of facts reported as news 


  • The deliberate purposeful dissemination of false or inaccurate information in order to discredit a person or organization; when one knows something to be untrue but shares it anyway.
    • “The basic effect of disinformation is to erode trust — trust in the validity and credibility of the of the media, trust in the validity and credibility of government and government leaders, trust in the validity and credibility of the political process,”

Fake News

  • News stories that are false: the story itself is fabricated, with no verifiable facts, sources or quotes. 

Filter Bubble

  • Algorithms that personalize the websites and social media we use, creates a filter bubble sending us only information, news and suggestions that confirm our views and likes, and distancing us from other information and perspectives

Firehose of Falsehoods

  • A propaganda technique that aims to confuse and overwhelm the audience with continuous, rapid, and repetitive messaging over multiple platforms. The messaging is often false, or composed of half-truths and lacks consistency and objectivity 


  • A widely publicized falsehood (e.g. the earth is flat) designed to invite automatic and unthinking acceptance by a massive group of people.  Hoaxers are generally confident that their representations will receive no scrutiny at all. They have such confidence because their  hoax aligns with believers' views of reality so that they accept the hoax without argument or evidence, and never question it.


  •  information that is false, but not intended to cause harm; individuals who don't know a piece of information is false may unwittingly spread it on social media in an attempt to be helpful


  •  A creative work that is created in order to imitate, comment on, critique, and / or mock its subject. It’s usually, but not always, meant to be funny – at least a little bit. And the subject of a parody is often another work of art, a book, a writing style, or a real-life person.    
    • SNL News Update; The Daily Show


  • Ideas or beliefs that are intentionally propagated to deliberately spread to influence 

    • Adolf Hitler: "It's task is not to make an objective study of the truth...its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly."

  • Uses words and word substitutes (symbols) in trying to reach a goal—pictures, posters, drawings, graphs, exhibits, parades, songs, videos and other devices


  • the art of making someone or something look ridiculous, raising laughter in order to embarrass, humble, or discredit its targets

Technology and Fake News - Social Media

Fake News Today - Social Media & Engagement Farming

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Data gathered from social media and other sources shapes the ads that dominate our news feeds. Data is gathered based on what we like, comment on and share; the posts we hide and delete; the videos we watch; the ads we click on; the quizzes we take, and for the sole purpose of money and profit. 

Social media and messaging to try to sway voters in presidential elections particularly in the US and Kenya This is very bad news for anyone worried about truth and democracy. While in the US,  fake news helped to propel into power a man lacking the credentials to be president, but in countries like Kenya, fake news can kill. 

Shayan Sardarizadeh of the BBC explained to Hanaa’ Tameez of Neiman Journalism Lab that social media posters on platforms like TikTok, YouTube, or Twitter can make significant sums of money from “engagement farming.” Posting outrageous material that engages viewers pumps up a user’s brand, making them able to command high prices from marketers.  

Sardarizadeh notes that the Israel-Hamas war (October 2023) is a particularly attractive situation for engagement farmers, and rumors and fake videos are flying.

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