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Information Essentials: How to spot fake news

What is fake news?

Fake news can be a combination of disinformation and misinformation.

  • Disinformation is the deliberate, often planned, attempts to confuse or manipulate people through delivering dishonest information to them.
  • Misinformation is misleading information created or distributed without manipulative or malicious intent.

Fake news are therefore stories that are specially designed to mislead or deliberately misinform people.


Why is it so dangerous?

The first job of fake news is to catch your attention and appeal to your emotions. We often place information into an emotional frame of reference that combines facts with feelings. This can be dangerous because just being exposed to a fake news headline can increase our belief in that headline, so scrolling through social media feeds full of emotionally charged content has the power to change the way we see the world and how we make decisions.

Tips and tools: How can you tell the difference?

    Find out about the source

Look at the website where the story comes from to see if the story is well-presented, if the images are clear, and if the text is written well and without any spelling errors or exaggerated language.

    Look at the author

To check if they are real, reliable and “trustworthy”, look for other pieces they have written and what outlets they have written for. If they haven’t written anything else, or if they write for websites that look unreliable, think twice about believing what they say.

    Check for references and links

Check that the article contains references and links to other news stories, articles and authors. Click on the links and check if they seem reliable and trustworthy.

    Google reverse image search

This tool allows you to search Google by images, rather than words.

    Is the story being shared?

See if the story you are reading about is being shared on any other mainstream news outlets, such as BBC News or Sky News. If it is, then you can feel more sure that the story is not fake, because these organisations take special care to check their sources and very rarely publish a story without having a second source to back it up.


Berger, G. (2018). Journalism, ‘fake news’ & disinformation. In C. Ireton & J. Posetti (Eds.), Handbook for journalism education and training (pp. 7-13). France: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Hewitt, B. (2017). How to spot fake news – an expert’s guide for young people. The Conversation.