This guide explores fake news as a contemporary phenomenon that it is increasingly important for academics to understand. It links the current version of fake news to its historical roots and describes tactics and resources for critically assessing it.
These three descriptions of fake news provide a starting point for thinking about fake news as motivated misinformation that is shaping the information landscape around us.
Reilly (2010) defines 3 dominant variations of fake news:
corporately funded or government sponsored propaganda that infiltrates the news media, professionalised forms of news parody and activist oriented, politically motivated fake news.
Chen, Conroy & Rubin (2015) posit that:
the boundaries between news production and information creation and sharing are gradually blurring in the current online news environments and social media.
S. Shyam Sundar (2016) considers:
fake news would not be problematical if people didn’t fall for it and share it. According to Sundar the psychology of online news consumption has to be understood. A corollary is the relative inattention to the credibility of news sources: journalistic sourcing or professional gatekeeping credibility.
While some fake news is clearly identifiable, it can also exist between boundaries in the form of unclear, misleading misinformation that is neither true nor false. Princeton Philosopher Harry Frankfurt describes how to identify bullshit and discern the difference between it and pure lies.
The links below are from Snopes, a website that debunks fake news. Some of these headlines are outlandish, but it's impossible to tell just from a headline what's true or not. Snopes fact-checks to confirm the truth.