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Misinformation and Disinformation: Thinking Critically about Information Sources

This Research Guide is adapted from a guide developed by the Research Center at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

Definitions of Terms

This selected (alphabetical) list is adapted from Stony Brook University's Digital Resources Center Glossary: The Language of News Literacy 

Advertising: the act of disseminating information (usually visual) for the purpose of selling products and/or services

Bias:  in favor (or against) a particular idea, person, or thing, based on one's personal feelings. 

Clickbait:  a form of false advertisement whose main purpose is to encourage users to follow a link to a web page. Clickbait often provides links that misrepresent itself and take users to links that generate advertising revenue for the number of clicks received.

Confirmation Bias: The tendency to confirm information based on one's preexisting beliefs.

Disinformation is the deliberate dissemination of false or inaccurate information in order to discredit a person or organization. 

Fake News: the intentional falsification and fabrication of news-based information with the purpose to harm and deceive people.

Hoax:  something intended to deceive or defraud

Information is the presentation of facts about a subject.
Misinformation is the sharing of inaccurate and misleading information in an unintentional way.

Parodyany humorous, satirical, or burlesque imitation, as of a person, event, etc. 

Propagandainformation deliberately spread to influence or raise awareness to a particular political cause or value position. Propaganda may resemble advertisements since both are highly visual, but propaganda does not engage in selling products or services.

Satire:   the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or humor, in the spread of information.

Four Types of "Fake News"

Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communications and media at Merrimack College, has divided questionable news sources into 4 categories.

The list is in an ever-growing Google doc found here. She makes it clear that her document and list are; based on her opinion, made for educational purposes, not definitive, and not all sources are considered 'fake'.

1.  Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites. 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.

2. Some websites may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information, or present opinion pieces as news. 

3. Other websites on this list sometimes use hyperbolic or clickbait-y headlines and/or social media descriptions, but may otherwise circulate reliable and/or verifiable information.

4. ‚ÄčOther sources are purposefully fake with the intent of satire/comedy, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news. 

Ten Questions for Fake News Detection from The News Literacy Project's Checkology Virtual Classroom

Fake News Facts

Fake news is information posing as news, which has not been verified and is not true. It could be clickbait, rumours, hoaxes, propaganda, or satire. Today fake news is overwhelmingly web-driven, but fake news is nothing new

Check out this explainer on Fake News and the Spread of Disinformation from Journalist's Resource, from the Harvard Shorenstein Center on Media Politics and Public Policy.

Timeline of Key moments in the latest fake news debate from Claire Wardle at FirstDraftNewsFirstDraftNews works with it's media partners to improve online news verification, reporting and sharing.

2016's top fake news stories were collected by C|net from the fact-checking sites SnopesFactcheck,org and Politifact. ‚Äč

Who's Reading and Sharing Fake News?


Who's reading fake news? According to the Jumpshot Tech Blog:

  • Facebook referrals accounted for 50 percent of total traffic to fake news sites and 20 percent of total traffic to reputable news sites.
  • The oldest age group analyzed, 65 and over, was the most likely to click on fake and hyperpartisan news.
  • Millennials are 16 percent less likely to click on fake news from Facebook compared to the rest of the population.

Data on Facebook’s fake news problem, The Jumpshot Tech Blog, Nov. 29, 2016