“Fake News” has become a catch-all for any information an individual deems untrue. Disturbingly, it has also become a label applied to anything out-of-line with an individual’s worldview. The purpose of intentionally generated misinformation is multifaceted and can be designed to: make fun of, create humor, create distress, start a panic, change opinions, be an outright lie and worse, be a matter of life or death.

Today’s online sources leave a lot to be desired when the average individual makes any attempt at understanding exactly what fake news is and how to identify it. Articles are paired with realistic headlines, icons, and text, but the author may be completely fabricated.
Fake news is not only crafty, but it is designed to confuse and influence. The creators of fake news understand that the human brain can only try to question for a limited time and then gives up. These purveyors inundate viewers with constant chaos so that within a short time, they achieve their goals and the viewer believes everything that they see or ignores all news which effectively achieves their goal of a less informed more distrusting public.

Below are some guidelines to assist in the process of discerning the nuances and variety of misinformation types suited to different purposes.

Misleading Content

Framing the text to only include partial information to create an alternate view for an individual or entity. Often used to make a particular point without incorporating the entire story. A favorite method used against politicians or political/social topics.

Intent
A falsehood deliberately fabricated to masquerade as the truth.

Examples

Manipulated Content

The use of doctoring or changing videos, photos, or other imageries. Highly used in the creation of memes as well as YouTube videos. Using technology, the designers create realistic misinformation to change or alter personal viewpoints or opinions. Videos misrepresent popular or well-known figures using technologies, software, and AI to fabricate convincing deepfake representations.

Intent
Often used by those involved in activist propaganda development to disperse into mass media and alter or change public opinion.

Examples

Satire, Parody, Humor

Using humor, exaggeration, ridicule, expose, or imitation to make a particular point. Typically does not have ability to fool. Often presented realistically, but typically ends in amusement or as part of a joke. Popular on social media platforms. The sources may or may not indicate that the content isn’t real but typically include a disclaimer somewhere that defines that it is not factual. Many include a disclaimer to indicate that the information isn’t real.

Intent
The purpose is to usually add a hint of levity that is grounded in something that might be serious.

Examples

False Connection

Headlines designed to grab attention and encourage the viewer to continue to read, only to find out that the balance of the content doesn’t support or relate to the headline. Popular in social media where individuals often read just the headline before sharing. Part of the clickbait concept to get more viewers to click and open as it is also usually associated with product offerings within the content. Popular among those that use guerilla marketing tactics.

Intent
Posing as a topic of interest in a subject line to get the viewer to click and read. Headlines can range from something that is potentially true to the outrageous. The goal is financially based on clicks and reads, with content that doesn’t relate to the subject.

Examples

Fabricated Content

All information that is contained is entirely false. This format is designed to cause harm to individuals, entities, events, ideas, philosophies, etc.

Intent
Deliberate attempts to create made-up content for the purpose of creating negative information around topics that don’t exist. A favorite method used in trolling, which are people/bots acting as internet “trolls” to begin quarrels or fights online. The goal is to post something upsetting, distractive, and inflammatory comments and images, to get an emotional response.

Examples

False Context

Genuine content is used as a baseline and then replaced with false context information. This content can be a kind of mix-and-match, blurring both genuine and false information, data, and text into a story. The purpose is to realign or change the viewer into falling prey to false information. This form of content is also popular with sources responsible for pseudoscience topics and products.

Intent
Spreading misinformation by using specific portions of a story and then extrapolating it into the bizarre lies.

Examples

Imitation/counterfeit

Social media accounts or websites positioning themselves as a well-known person, brand, product, or situation. A typical tactic of foreign entities, such as the Russians, that want to influence an opinion or have others join their groups.

Intent
Each counterfeit has a specific agenda to accomplish; from pitting American citizens against each other to reinforcing a specific belief system.

Examples

Imposter Content

The addition of fabricated or made up information or data to emulate or impersonate legitimate sources. Often make use of realistic-looking logos, icons, graphs, charts, and layouts to deceive the viewer into believing the information is accurate and real. These sources can include those that create conspiracy theories to attract their followers.

Intent
Acting as an arm of propaganda, biased or misleading information is used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view, while presenting the false information formatted as real news.

Examples

False Acknowledgement

Credible information, data, images, or quotes are misattributed to the wrong person/people/time/events.

Intent

Most common use is to reinforce a political or personal view.

Examples

Media Literacy Questions to Discern Fake News: