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Fake News: What Is Fake News?

LibGuide on identifying fake news

"Fake news is just as it sounds: news that is misleading and not based on fact or, simply put, fake...fake news has the intention of disseminating false information, not for comedy, but for consumption."

— Barbara Alvarez, "Public Libraries in the Age of Fake News." Public Libraries, Nov 2016: 24-7. Accessed 13 Feb. 2017.

Types of "Fake News"

Imposter News Sites

These websites are designed to look like legitimate sites and incorporate some facts into their stories, but the articles are false. They are an attempt to convince readers to pass the news on as if it were true. These fake news sites get revenue from the ads you see on the page.

Conservative Front Line

The Gateway Pundit 


Satire websites are not really "fake news". These sites that may be topical, but the stories are not real. They are meant to be humorous, not to deceive the reader - yet sometimes the graphic design and layout of the sites can convince readers that it is creditable.

The Onion


Clickbait and Hoaxes

These websites also have bits of true stories but insinuate and make up other details to create an emotional response, typically anger or fear. Most of these are conspiratorial in nature, are very unreliable, and frequently shared on social media.  The stories often feature outrageous headlines in all capital letters.




Bias news sources contain statements that reflect a partiality, preference, or prejudice for or against a person, object, or idea.  These sources convey a particular feeling or attitude (they are not neutral); play on your emotions; and try to change your mind.  Language is often extreme and arguments in the piece appeal more to emotions than logic.  Wording is oversimplified or over generalized in order for the author to present a limited view of the topic.

InfoWars (podcast and website)

Junk Science

Sources that promote pseudoscience, naturalistic fallacies, and other scientifically dubious claims can be found on television or in popular magazines/periodicals.  Articles and presentations are not approved by professionals and do not have scientific credibility- in many cases the person advocating for these treatments and products are disgraced professionals who have been kicked out of their field.

Paul Cameron
Dr. Oz

How to Spot Fake News

How to spot fake news infographic

Consider the Source

  • Click away from the story to investigate the site, its mission and its contact info.

Check the Author

  • Do a quick search on the author. Are they credible? Are they real?

Check the Date

  • Reposting old news stories doesn't mean they are relevant to current events.

Check your Bias

  • Consider if your own beliefs could affect your judgment.

Read Beyond

  • Headlines can be outrageous in an effort to get clicks. What's the whole story?

Supporting Sources

  • Click on those links. Determine if the info given actually supports the story.

Is it a Joke?

  • If is is too outlandish, it might be satire. Research the site and author to be sure.

Ask the Experts

  • Ask a librarian, or consult a fact-checking site.


  • Bad News is a game in which you take on the role of fake news-monger. Drop all pretense of ethics and choose a path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate.
  • Fake it to Make it "puts the player in the role of the creator of fake news, trying to make money from advertisers by setting up a site, copying news stories and re-posting them, creating fake social media accounts and generating interest by choosing users and groups to target with social media messages."
UC LibGuides at Union College