“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.

A falsehood deliberately fabricated to masquerade as the truth.


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.

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


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.

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


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.

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.


Fabricated Content

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

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.


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.

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



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.

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


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.

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.


False Acknowledgement

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


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


Media Literacy Questions to Discern Fake News:

What source created the message?

We know that the media constructs the articles, but we often only see the front face that is being presented. There is a need to have background research on who was the individual, company, or organization that crafted the message.

Are the messages by the media constructed with the use of a creative language and having rules that are their own?

Certain media sources have particular styles of writing and reporting which can be identified; however, some also make use of guidelines and rules to craft their messages with specific language formats for the purpose of influencing opinion and thought.

What tools/techniques were made use of to get my attention?

Examine why a message grabbed your attention to see if there is a distinctive negative or positive technique or tool used.

Is the message designed to be experienced differently by different types of people?

Words and pictures can be translated in a variety of ways based on perception grounded in experience.

What source created the message?Does this source have an innate personal agenda, point of view, or values?

Many sources have specific business models that require positioning information to circle back and complement.

Are there any points of view, values, agendas omitted and or represented in the message?

Look to see if there is a hidden purpose for the report/news deliberately designed that appeases the source’s point of view/agenda with intent to influence you.

Is this reporting, story, image wrapped around ultimate goal(s) of power and profit?

Attracting the right demographic will reinforce the popularity of each media source and allow them to attain increased revenue and power over the populace.

What is the purpose of this message?

Examine what the source is trying to get you to understand, believe, think, rearrange, or be shocked by and will it ultimately enhance the source in some way.