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Fake News: Categories

Fake News: the history, hysteria, and hype – and how to see through the subterfuge.

Categories of Fake News

There are multiple ways to categorize fake news. Review the sections below to gain a better understanding about the different ways fake news can be broken down.

Fake Stuff

Fake news has become a rather broad term (including things like hoaxes, misinformation, urban legends, satire, propaganda, etc.). So when breaking things down into categories, it can be more beneficial to use the not-so-technical term "fake stuff." There are a few different ways to categorize "fake stuff," but generally, it can be put into these 5 categories:

  1. False/ deceptive
    • Stories that are completely made up, no truth to them whatsoever.
    • Deliberately fabricated news that is intended to mislead or make money through clicks.
    • Entirely fake news websites or “imposter sites” that are designed to look like a real/ credible website.
    • This is the "traditional" fake news category.
  2. Misleading
    • Stories that contain no established baseline for truth but promote an agenda.
    • These stories will often take a tiny shred of factual information, give it their own spin, and run off with it in a completely different direction.
    • Examples that fall under this category are intended to "rile you up."
  3. Slanted/ biased
    • Stories that contain truthful elements but certain facts are selectively chosen or omitted to serve an agenda (like gaining headlines).
    • The stories that fall under this category are not necessarily false. The stories report true news, but they do so in a biased way.
    • Certain content from Fox News, MSNBC, and others could fall under this category (Fox News, MSNBC, Huffington Post, etc. don’t have to be completely avoided, but just be aware that biases may exist).
  4. Manipulated
    • Content or imagery that is altered falls under this category.
    • "Doctored" or "Photoshopped" images would also be included.
  5. Humor (satire/ parody/ jokes)
    • Stories that are purposefully fake with no intention to cause harm but have the potential to fool people.
    • Satire news seeks to entertain and be humorous rather than mislead, but people can misinterpret the content as real.

Beyond Fake News

There is a commendable movement that calls for more precision when categorizing and talking about fake news – doing away with the simple and encompassing term that “fake news” has become. The idea is to make specific distinctions on the many different types of misleading news, which is especially important when considering how to best teach and inform how to spot these different types and how to dissect them.

EAVI (European Association for Viewers Interests) breaks down misleading news into 10 categories:

  1. Propaganda
  2. Clickbait
  3. Sponsored content
  4. Satire and hoax
  5. Error
  6. Partisan
  7. Conspiracy theory
  8. Pseudoscience
  9. Misinformation
  10. Bogus

There are also 4 bonus categories:

  • False attribution
  • Counterfeit
  • Misleading
  • Doctored content

7 Types of Misinformation and Disinformation

First Draft "is a global non-profit that supports journalists, academics and technologists working to address challenges relating to trust and truth in the digital age."

To better understand the complexity of fake news, First Draft has created a list of seven types of misinformation and disinformation.

  1. Satire or parody
  2. False connection
  3. Misleading content
  4. False context
  5. Imposter content
  6. Manipulated content
  7. Fabricated content

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Many of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.