What is fake news?

You’ve probably heard about fake news. It’s been around for a long time, but recent political events in the US, UK and France have caused a lot of concern over the problem.

Fake news stories are false articles purporting to be genuine. Unlike news pieces you’ll see on internationally respected sites like CNN, BBC, Washington Post, The Telegraph, Financial Times and Le Monde  these stories have no evidence to back them up. They’ll often have sensationalist headlines, containing shocking material, sometimes about public figures or historical events.

There are several reasons people publish fake news stories:

  • To troll – sometimes people publish fake news stories just because they enjoy pranking and misleading people.
  • To push an ideological/political agenda – some people may publish fake news to bolster support for their political/ideological beliefs. They may seek to publish damaging stories about their opponents, for instance
  • To confuse – some individuals might wish to undermine traditional sources of information by pushing baseless conspiracy theories

We’ve published a guide on how to spot fake news stories, but you can follow a few simple steps when reading things online:

  • Be wary of sensationalist news headlines. If something seems very strange, then quickly log on to a fact-checking website like Snopes, Full Fact or FactCheck
  • Watch out for far-fetched narratives about conspiracies and cabals
  • Be careful about quotes from public figures being taken out of context and deliberately spun/misinterpreted
  • If you think a story is fake, then don’t share it. If you do, you’re doing exactly what the author wants

Luckily, social media giants like Facebook and Google are taking the problem seriously. Facebook added some tips for spotting false stories in Spring 2017, while Google has added a fact check label to stories it deems dubious.

If you’re worried about fake news, then don’t hesitate in asking us some more questions in the comment section below.