While not a new phenomenon, the proliferation of fake news has gained dangerous traction in recent years, particularly in the arena of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. This has created a vast, new set of daunting challenges, both for the news consumer and those whose passion it is to educate the future news consumer.
This guide is intended for both students and faculty to use as a multi-dimension learning aid - or Swiss army knife, if you will :-) - in their exploration of critical thinking as it relates to media literacy - an aspect of our information-rich society that, arguably, is an unavoidable part of today's "post-truth" era.
What is "fake news"? What are the different 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 that 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. Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not. It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.