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Fake News

Why do our brains love fake news?

Defining fake news

Everyone has heard the term "fake news" - but do you know what it really means? Do you know the difference between misinformation and disinformation? Understanding the various ways that false information is shared, and the motives and appeal behind it, is important in avoiding and combating it. 

Definitions of terms associated with false information
Term Definition Source
misinformation “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.”

“deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.”
fake news  "purposefully crafted, sensational, emotionally charged, misleading or totally fabricated information that mimics the form of mainstream news"  Fake News: understanding media and misinformation in the digital age (back cover)
deepfake "a fake, digitally manipulated video or audio file produced by using deep learning, an advanced type of machine learning, and typically featuring a person’s likeness and voice in a situation that did not actually occur: "

Adapted to use on this guide with permission of UW Bothell Library. For more information see:

What isn't fake news?

It's easy to think that anything you disagree with is "fake news". But as described below there are limits to what is considered fake news. It does not include

  • Mistakes -- Reporters make mistakes; legitimate reporters correct their mistakes.
  • Opinion articles -- A point of view, even with a bias, doesn't make it fake. Good opinion pieces, however, will reference solid factual information.
  • Facts we don't like! -- It's not fake just because it disagrees with you!
  • Native advertising or "sponsored content" -- their purpose is to sell, not to inform.
  • Press releases -- public relations pieces from a company or organization;
  • Parody/satire sites, including The Onion --  their purpose is to entertain and perhaps to persuade, but they should not be mistaken for news sources

Adapted to use on this guide with permission of Corliss Lee (Berkeley Library) and Bill Meloy (California University of Pennsylvania). For more information see: