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English at Oxford: Fake News Guide

Subjects: English

What is Fake News?

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'Fake News' is a charge often applied to information that someone doesn't like or disagrees with in order to discredit it, but fake news is not simply uncomfortable information. Fake News is "fabricated information that mimics news media content(1)" 

There is lots of information online which could be classed as 'fake news':

Fake News: Sources that entirely fabricate information, disseminate deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports

Satire: Sources that use humor, irony, exaggeration, ridicule, and false information to comment on current events.

Extreme Bias: Sources that come from a particular point of view and may rely on propaganda, decontextualized information, and opinions distorted as facts.

Conspiracy Theory: Sources that are well-known promoters of kooky conspiracy theories.

Rumor Mills: Sources that traffic in rumors, gossip, innuendo, and unverified claims.

State-sponsored News: Sources in repressive states operating under government sanction. Propaganda.

Junk Science: Sources that promote pseudoscience, metaphysics, naturalistic fallacies, and other scientifically dubious claims.

Hate News: Sources that actively promote racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.

Clickbait: Sources that provide generally credible content, but use exaggerated, misleading, or questionable headlines, social media descriptions, and/or images.

Proceed With Caution: Sources that may be reliable but whose contents require further verification.

Political: Sources that provide generally verifiable information in support of certain points of view or political orientations.

Credible: Sources that circulate news and information in a manner consistent with traditional and ethical practices in journalism (Remember: even credible sources sometimes rely on clickbait-style headlines or occasionally make mistakes. No news organization is perfect, which is why a healthy news diet consists of multiple sources of information.

[These definitions are taken from Melissa Zimdar's Open Sources project that classifies websites for credibility.]

To share or not to share?

Before you share online information with someone stop and evaluate:

"When you feel strong emotion–happiness, anger, pride, vindication–and that emotion pushes you to share a “fact” with others, STOP.

Above all, these are the claims that you must fact-check. Why? Because you’re already likely to check things you know are important to get right, and you’re predisposed to analyze things that put you an intellectual frame of mind. But things that make you angry or overjoyed, well… our record as humans are not good with these things.

Our normal inclination is to ignore verification needs when we react strongly to content, and researchers have found that content that causes strong emotions (both positive and negative) spreads the fastest through our social networks.

Use your emotions as a reminder. Strong emotions should become a trigger for your new fact-checking habit. Every time content you want to share makes you feel rage, laughter, ridicule, or even a heartwarming buzz, spend 30 seconds fact-checking.  It will do you well." - Michael A. Caulfield