The Oxford English Dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
This page is intended to help you to verify and utilize fact-based news resources for research purposes.
Types of Fake News
There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.
CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.
CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information
CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions
CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news
No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.) Some articles fall under more than one category. It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.
Recognize that even typically reliable sources, whether mainstream or alternative, corporate or nonprofit, rely on particular media frames to report stories and select stories based on different notions of newsworthiness.
Be critical of the sources we share and engage with on social media.
What to avoid:
“Fake, false, regularly misleading sites” which rely on “outrage” using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits” (examples:Politicalo, AmericanNews.com)
By Craig Timberg, Ellen Nakashima and Tony Romm, in The Washington Post, on March 16, 2020. Misleading text messages claiming that President Trump was going to announce a national quarantine buzzed into cellphones across the country over the weekend, underscoring how rapidly false claims are spreading — and how often it is happening beyond the familiar misinformation vehicles of Facebook and Twitter.
By Scott Barry Kaufman in The Scientific American, on February 14, 2019. New research suggests both liberals and conservatives are motivated to believe fake news, and dismiss real news that contradicts their ideologies
by Edmund Lee, in New York Times, Jan. 16, 2019. Latest developments about NewsGuard, a venture run by journalism professionals that labels online news with color tags: green ratings follow basic standards of accuracy and accountability, red do not.
In addition to red and green icons for news and information websites, NewsGuard assigns a blue “platform” icon to sites that primarily host user-generated content. Humor or satire sites that mimic real news are assigned an orange “satire” icon. A grey icon indicates that a website has not yet been rated by NewsGuard’s team.
by Benedict Carey, January 2, 2018. New York Times article reporting on the results of one research study that found fake news consumption is infrequent. Those over 60 are more likely to visit a fake news site, and people find most fake news via Facebook.
By Steve Inskeep, NPR, December 11, 2016. Behind the fake news crisis lies what's perhaps a larger problem: Many Americans doubt what governments or authorities tell them, and also dismiss real news from traditional sources.
Article includes a useful guide for evaluating online news and information.
Serious Consequences of Fake News
Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people. Purveyors of fake medical advice like Mercola.com and NaturalNews.com help perpetuate myths like HIV and AIDS aren't related, or that vaccines cause autism. These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.
Real news can benefit you. If you are writing a research paper, your professor will expect you to vet your sources. If you are planning on voting in an election, you want to read as much good information on a candidate so you can vote for the person who best represents your ideas and beliefs. Fake news will not help you get a good grade or make the world a better place, but real news can.