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Media Literacy

media literacy and fluency; information literacy and fluency; fake news

What is Fake News?

“'Fake news' means a made-up story with an intention to deceive, often geared toward getting clicks" (Tavernise 2016).

Prior to the 2016 election, fake news existed as within newspaper tabloids and satirical features on popular TV shows. However, during the 2016 election, fake news began circulating social media at an alarming rate. These news stories contain hoaxes, propaganda, and misinformation that are presented as fact to drive web traffic inflamed by social media. The creators of fake news mislead and profit from readers' gullibility.

Part of the Information Fluency initiative at UNT is for our students to be able to identify, analyze, and fact check fake news. This guide is intended to assist with those goals.

Real News VS Fake News

When conducting research, engaging with news sources, or scrolling through your FaceBook feed, be aware that fake news is out there.

Why should you care about whether or not your news is real or fake?

1.You deserve the truth. You are smart enough to make up your own mind - as long as have the real facts in front of you. You have every right to be insulted when you read fake news.

2. Fake news destroys your credibility.  If your arguments are built on bad information, it will be much more difficult for people to believe you in the future.

3. Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people.  Purveyors of fake medical advice like and 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.

4. 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.

Reference:Tavernise, Sabrina (7 December 2016), "As Fake News Spreads Lies, More Readers Shrug at the Truth", The New York Times, p. A1, retrieved 13 December 2016.

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.

Fake News Is A Real Problem


Source: Accessed 2016.

Known Fake News Sites

Copyright © University of North Texas. Some rights reserved. Except where otherwise indicated, the content of this library guide is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license. Suggested citation for citing this guide when adapting it:

This work is a derivative of "Media Literacy", created by [author name if apparent] and © University of North Texas, used under CC BY-NC 4.0 International.

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