The term "fake news" has become a catch-all for all different kinds of news that promote false information, intentionally mislead readers, manipulate our emotions, and provide affirmation to our existing viewpoints and biases.
To complicate things further, these days it's common for people to label news that disagrees with their own viewpoints as fake, without further investigating or verifying the information being presented. So you might hear that a news article is fake or that a news source is fake, even when it's reliable. When in doubt, fact-check for yourself (going through this guide will help!) and/or ask a librarian.
The definitions below (most from Oxford Languages) will help clarify what is often a muddy landscape of information overload:
|Fake news or hoax news||Stories that promote false information. While they may be loosely influenced by facts, these stories cannot be verified. These stories often rely on language designed to get an emotional response (like outrage) from readers.|
|Misinformation||False or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.|
|Disinformation||False information which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media.|
|Conspiracy theory||A belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for a circumstance or event.|
|Filter bubble||A situation in which an internet user encounters only information and opinions that conform to and reinforce their own beliefs, caused by algorithms that personalize an individual’s online experience.|
|Clickbait||Content on the internet whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.|
|Hyperpartisan or heavily biased news||Stories that present facts, often carefully selected, through a biased or hyperpartisan perspective. The stories appear on websites, Facebook pages, and other social media accounts. Hyperpartisan pages and accounts are often fake news purveyors that generate shares and clicks in order to either push a particular political view or profit from user engagement on social media platforms.|
|Media bias||There are different levels of bias, but credible reporters and news sites attempt to present facts with objectivity; stories are carefully checked by professional fact-checkers.|
|News parody / satire||
Stories that parody current events and reporting in a humorous way. While they often use false headlines, they are created to poke fun at current events or people, not to convince readers that the information is true. A very funny example of a news parody site is The Onion.