n recent years the talk about fake news has risen to a whole new level. If you don’t want to get fooled by fake news, it helps to know what fake news is and how to spot it. If we all can learn how to tell real news from fake news, our politics and public opinions will be much less confused.

This article covers everything you need to know to stay informed about what's going on in the world:

  • The current issue of fake news
  • Examples of fake news
  • Types of fake news
  • Tips for spotting fake news

What is Fake News?

There has been a circulation of fake news online, causing a mass confusion of misinformation. Fake news is when fabricated stories try to pass as serious journalism. Readers who cannot tell the difference between real and fake news believes these articles and shares them so that many readers are believing and basing opinions, decisions, and discussions on untrue news. Americans understand the confusion fake media causes, and yet 23 percent of adults have knowingly or not shared fake news.

This issue shows no signs of going away soon, as the writers of these stories are making a profit and hold power of influence over the public’s opinions. Google and Facebook, as well as other platforms, are attempting to fight the surge of fake news, but it is unclear how successful they’ve been.  

a man with a beard reads a news story on his iPad
Next time you open up an article to read, think about whether the article is credible or not. Don’t share an article if you think it could be fake news.

Fake news can be used to refer to satire and parody pieces, but these types of writing don’t have the same malicious intent of deceiving audiences. When talking about fake news, the term is usually used to refer to written pieces and recorded segments that are telling false information or sharing conspiracy theories.

On a whole we are still unsure as to why some believe these types of articles, or why some actively seek out fake news. However to clear everyone’s confusion on current issues and events, it helps to learn how to spot fake news.    

Examples of Fake News

Unfortunately there are a lot of sources of fake news out there. Some sources have already been called out for their false nature, and knowing about these is a good start on knowing what news to avoid.

Here are just a few names of websites that are proven sources of fake news:

  • ABCnews.com.co
  • The Boston Tribune
  • Celebtricity
  • Breaking-CNN.com
  • Empire News
  • The Gateway Pundit

Notice some of these websites are ripping off names of credible sources to appear credible themselves. However their domain names are just slightly off, which is a sign to you that they may not be real news. If you’d like to see what fake news looks like (so you can avoid it), maybe check out a couple of these to see what techniques they use to deceive readers.

Types of Fake News

What kind of fake news is out there? Typically you’ll see four types of fake news: deliberate misinformation, false headlines, social media, and satire. They all have their own forms of misinformation and intentions behind it.

Deliberate Misinformation

This type of fake news targets an audience that hopes it is true. Because it satisfies this audience so efficiently, deliberate fake news hopes to be shared without the readers verifying the information. The fake news spreads quickly, creating confusion as well as a rise of emotions.

False Headlines

The headline is catchy, bold, but ultimately untrue. If you were to click onto the article, you’d see in the body it has something different to say from the headline. You may know this as “clickbait.” The untrue headline is meant to draw readers in, with untrue or exaggerated information. The false headline is at best is misleading, at worst entirely untrue.  

newspapers at a news stand
Start by reading the headline of the article. Does it already make you feel angry or pleased? Does it draw in your attention in any way? This could be your first sign of fake news.

Social Media

Social media is especially vulnerable and prone to the sharing of fake news. Social media is able to show large quantities of information in a short period of time, which makes users less likely to verify and more likely to click and share. They rely on shares, likes, and followers, and popularity is misinterpreted by users as truthful.

Satire and Parody

Satire and humor usually begins with a fact and then twists the story for humor or to comment on society. Their intended audiences know this information to be untrue. However satire and parody can become fake news if it is misinterpreted and shared as real news.

How to Tell Real News from Fake

If you want to avoid promoting the circulation of fake news, or you simply just want to know the truth and nothing but the truth, it’s time to learn how to distinguish real news from fake. After reading an article, verifying its truthfulness, for the most part, requires research. It takes a longer time than simply reading and believing, but in this time of fake news it’s a necessary step in staying up-to-date.

Creator and Their Credibility

First look at who has created the article. If it is a well known source, such as CNN or BBC, the article is less likely to be fake news. You can also research the author of the article to make sure they are qualified enough to be writing this type of content. On the website, is there an about section on the author and organization? Check those out, but their existence is already a good sign of credibility. The About Us section will also let you know if the site writes satire pieces.

Be wary of unusual domain names. The ending of a site’s URL also matters. .gov, .edu, .mil, and .org are usually more credible sources than websites ending in .com, .net, and others.

Message of the Story

After reading the article, it is often very easy to figure out the purpose of the writing. Has it convinced you to join a certain opinion? Has it made you feel strong emotions over an event or issue? Or do you simply feel informed, with the article pushing no bias or agenda at all? The last example is usually the most credible source, and likely real news. That doesn’t mean real news can’t be opinionated and emotional. However fake news does use these tools to sway facts.

If a story for any reason grabs your attention, you should be wary of its truthfulness. Fake news often gets its wide readership from telling a story that is too good or too bad to be true, or it targets off of a group’s anger or hate. If, after reading the story, you have an immediate emotional reaction, it may be fake news.


It’s time to verify the information. You can go about this in a number of ways. First, you could find other sources that tell the same story. If the topic is being talked about at more than one source, the news is likely true. By comparing articles from different sources you can also better distinguish biases that influence how each piece is written.

Second, you can use a fact-checking site. Try using sites such as FactCheck.org, International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), PolitiFact.com, or Snopes.com. They’ll do the verifying for you, and tell you whether or not a discussed topic in the news has any truth to it.

Third, try looking into the sources of the article. Have credible are those sources? An article written off unreliable sources is likely fake news. If the article has first hand sources, such as legal filing, interviews and direct quotes, leaked documents, and press release, your article is looking much more credible.

a woman sits at her laptop researching the claims made in an article
It’s time to open multiple tabs on your laptop and do some basic fact-checking. To discern credibility, see if other sources are writing about this topic, and check the credibility of the sources the article provides.

You also should check the date of its publication. If it, or its source, is old and outdated, the topic likely has no relevance to you and current issues and you should discount it.

Fake news has created a mass of confusion, but you don’t need to fall into or contribute to that confusion. Fake news is trying to control the public opinion, but you can easily combat it by verifying the news you see online. Check the sources and figure out why the article was written. Then you can separate truth from fiction, and make informed decisions and opinions about current events and issues. You don’t want to believe everything you read, but then again, you don’t want to disbelieve everything either. So be a wise consumer of the news and verify where you can.

Feb 24, 2020