Fake News

According to Collins English dictionary, fake news is “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting” (Collins, 2017). As explored in Hunt (2016), fake news is different to:

  • Parody (where the reader understands it is not true)
  • Opinion or bias (where content reflects the author’s personal viewpoint)

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The creators of fake news may have a variety of motives. They may wish to:

  • Trick you into believing a hoax
  • Push a political agenda
  • Collect advertising revenue

You may also hear genuine news stories labelled fake news to discredit them.

Fake news, in one form or other, has been around as long as writing itself—but it can be shared all over the world faster than ever before via social media.

Users of social media are often shown information they are expected to like or agree with. This effect is called the echo chamber. If you are in an echo chamber, you will only see information that reinforces your own pre-existing opinions and beliefs (Quattrociocchi, 2017).

Fake news and echo chambers may be having an affect on the way people behave in real life, especially politically (Solon, 2016). This has led to the term post-truth being used to describe society’s current relationship with information (Oxford University Press, 2016). Are we rejecting truth on the basis that it does not fall in line with our own pre-existing opinions and beliefs (Rochlin, 2017)?

1. Identify it

Fake news only has power if people believe it to be true. Therefore the best way to fight fake news is to identify it. Do not share it or help to spread it. The critical analysis skills you develop during your studies as a University of Bedfordshire student can help you do this. To identify whether what you’re reading is fake, ask yourself questions about the resource:

  • Who wrote it?
  • Why was it written?
  • Where did it get it’s information from?
  • How was the data collected or the research conducted?
  • When was it written?

You can also look up suspicious stories on Snopes, a fact-checking website.

2. Break free from echo chambers

To determine whether or not you are in an echo chamber, ask questions about your own reading habits:

  • Am I only reading news which reinforces my own pre-existing political or cultural biases?
  • Am I only reading news which has been shared via social media?

3. Widen and vary your reading

Broaden your perspective by checking news sources which challenge your own biases, directly from the source. Don’t rely on others to share news with you.

4. Learn about news resources available in the library

For example, Newsbank and Lexis Library (online databases containing UK newspaper articles) and our print subscriptions to newspapers.

Always check a source’s references—these show where it got its information from. Can you identify any biases in this reference list?

Collins (2017) Definition of 'fake news'. Available at: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/fake-news (Accessed 7 November 2017).

Hunt, E. (2016) ‘What is fake news? How to spot it and what you can do to stop it’, The Guardian, 17 December. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/dec/18/what-is-fake-news-pizzagate (Accessed 7 November 2017).

IFLA (2017) How to spot fake news. Available at: https://www.ifla.org/publications/node/11174?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI--uq_e6h1wIVKL7tCh1gdgIDEAAYASAAEgIeufD_BwE (Accessed: 7 November 2017).

Oxford University Press (2017) Word of the year 2016 is... Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/word-of-the-year/word-of-the-year-2016 (Accessed 7 November 2017).

Solon, O. (2016) ‘Facebook’s failure: did fake news and polarized politics get Trump elected?’, The Guardian, 10 November. Available at:  https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/10/facebook-fake-news-election-conspiracy-theories (Accessed: 7 November 2017).

Quattrociocchi, W. (2017) ‘Inside the echo chamber’, Scientific American, 316(4), pp.60-63.

Rochlin, N. (2017) ‘Fake news: belief in post-truth’, Library Hi Tech, 35(3), pp. 386-392. doi: 10.1108/LHT-03-2017-0062

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