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Research Guides

What is fake news?

A word cloud in the shape of a question mark.


Fake news is information that is clearly and demonstrably fabricated and that has been packaged and distributed to appear as legitimate news. This narrow definition seeks to distinguish fake news from other types of misleading information by clarifying that the former is patently false and was created and presented in a way meant to deceive consumers into thinking it is real. Fake news refers to a specific piece of information; it does not refer to any particular type of news outlet, individual, or other actor.  - Understanding the Fake News Universe by Media Matters for America

Mistakes in reporting are not fake news...

"Instances of erroneous reporting do not reveal an intent to deceive on their own, nor do they imply a complete fabrication of a story." - Understanding the Fake News Universe by Media Matters for America

Satire is not fake news...

Fake news is not to be confused with satirical news as seen on shows like "Saturday Night Live" and "Last Week Tonight."  Fake news is not a humorous comment on the news.  Rather, fake news seeks to supplant the news, to sway its audience into believing all sorts of untruths and conspiracy theories, the more bizarre, the better."  - Leonard Pitts, "Newspapers, the Answer to Fake News." Baltimore Sun, December 1, 2016.

Fake News: Context

Understanding the News

What can we do?

How to identify a fake news story

Eleven tips on how to identify Fake News from the Breaking News Consumer's Handbook.

Tools for News Consumers

Credits: content used on this page was adapted from Evaluating Information - STAAR Method: Fake News.