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Fake News & Evaluating Web Resources

What is Fake News?

According to UNESCO's handbook Journalism: 'Fake News' and Disinformation "fake news" can be viewed as either one of three phenomena: 

  • Disinformation: "Information that is false and deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organisation or country"
  • Misinformation: "Information that is false but not created with the intention of causing harm."
  • Mal-information: "Information that is based on reality, used to inflict harm on a person, social group, organisation or country."


Source: Understanding Information Disorder (First Draft)

MisinformationDisinformation, and Malinformation are part of a wider concept known as "information disorder," which consists of 7 narratives that compete with truthful journalism. These narratives are:

  1. Satire & Parody (No intention to harm but has potential to fool).
  2. Misleading Content (Misleading use of information to frame an issue or individual).
  3. Imposter Content (When genuine sources are impersonated).
  4.  Fabricated Content (New content is 100% false, designed to deceive and do harm).
  5.  False Connection (When headlines, visuals or captions don't support the content).
  6. False Context (When genuine content is shared with false contextual information).
  7. Manipulated Content (When genuine information or imagery is manipulated to deceive).

How it Spreads?

Did you know?

  • "Much like a virus, the researchers say that over time being exposed to multiple strains of fake news can wear down a person’s resistance and make them increasingly susceptible. The more times a person is exposed to a piece of fake news, especially if it comes from an influential source, the more likely they are to become persuaded or infected"  (Stanford Engineering).
  • "Investigators found that as the number of memes in the network rises (...), the quality of those that propogate widely falls (...). So information overload can alone explain why fake news can become viral" (Scientific America).

Why it Matters?

Besides being untrue, there are several real-world reasons to care about the dissemination of "fake news" (aka misinformation and disinformation). These reasons include:

  1. Democracy: Fake news impedes an individual's ability to make informed choices about their government, a threat which is outlined the Canadian Government's document "Protecting Democracy from Disinformation: Normative Threats and Policy Responses."
  2. Economy: Fake news can have negative economic impacts on individuals and/or on governments. Take, for example, recent fake news in India regarding the consumption of chicken and the coronavirus, which has led to huge losses for poultry farmers in the country.
  3. Health and Safety: Misinformation and disinformation has been used to deny the science behind COVID-19 vaccinations. Read more about it in the Canadian Government's document "Fake News and Science Denier Attacks on vaccines. What you can do?"

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