It seems like ‘fake news’ is everywhere these days. Before November 2016, it was a little-used phrase most often applied to satirical shows and websites such as The Daily Show or The Onion. Since the election of Donald Trump, however, the number of Google searches for the term ‘fake news’ has gone through the roof.

Most recently, so-called ‘fake news’ planted by Russian hackers has been blamed on the rapidly-escalating crisis in the Gulf. It’s become the favourite catchphrase of politicians when confronted with stories they don’t like. Some commentators believe the term has effectively been ‘hijacked’ and is now essentially ‘meaningless’.

Whatever we call it, the phenomenon of fake news undoubtedly exists. And it’s not just harmless pranksterism, as employees of a Washington D.C. pizzeria discovered in 2016 when a gunman burst into the restaurant because he believed online stories about a child sex ring being run there by Democratic politicians. Luckily, nobody was injured.

Curious to know more about fake news? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

What is fake news? We had a comment from Petr, who pointed out that fake news often seems to include any opinion that people disagree with. Is he right? What does ‘fake news’ actually mean?

To get a reaction, we put Petr’s comment to Claire Wardle, Strategy and Research Director at First Draft News, a nonprofit organisation that works to raise awareness and address challenges relating to trust and truth in the digital age. What would she say? Is ‘fake news’ just news you don’t agree with?

We also had a comment from Milo (no, not that Milo) who argues that fake news (or whatever we call it) seems to spread faster than people can ‘fact check’ it. He points out that a person can easily create dozens of website referencing one another, each churning out fake news stories.

How can we fight disinformation if it spreads faster than it can be rebuffed?

Finally, we had a comment from Shreya, who wonders why people are so bad at spotting fake news. We put that question to Claire Wardle for her reaction:

Is ‘fake news’ just news you don’t agree with? What’s the best way to fight fake news? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Christoph Scholz


86 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Marko Martinović

    Media has been manipulating information from the start. Propaganda is common for a long ling time. Difference now is that in this age of imformation and disinformation we can find out more. Fake News is not just direct lies, it is also manipulation of information. Purpose of MSM is that manipulation. MSM is fake news

    • James Stromberg

      MSM is NOT fake news unless you perceive the world in highly reduced, binary terms.

    • Marko Martinović

      Their main objective is not to inform, but to manipulate. That much is clear.

    • Nick Mackin

      Marko Martinović This is true, but dont fall into that trap that because mainstream news manipulates, that non mainstream news is correct.

  2. Marko Martinović

    Media has been manipulating information from the start. Propaganda is common for a long long time. Difference now is that in this age of imformation and disinformation we can find out more. Fake News is not just direct lies, it is also manipulation of information. Purpose of MSM is that manipulation. MSM is fake news

  3. Azad Maruf

    Europe is not that strong to resist the evilness powers that liars gained citizens and as through their organised crimes are backing them in Europe…..Iranian terrorist groups used to be funded by Iraq could establish themselves at your heart but never working for your Democralcy but their intrests serving democracy alone…Corruption in Iraq and barbarism of Turkey are more infuenciable than your weak legal struggles in that hot zone….They are openly corruption supporters working with that classes of French, as an example on your countries hosted them, bodies to move that so called Democracy to Iran as their next massive middle east war project since 1991 or earlier time…..Socialism lost that cards and it is very hard to win as well but the only winning publicity could win is The moderate Islam in that region…. As you have heard , that is the start of the last chapter and their fake news is nothing……Whoever follows that serious human rights violations, mentioned previuosly, should understand that why Iraq became such an open yard for terror …

  4. Evans Fu

    Of course not, that makes no sense.

    Fake news = Lies. That’s it, enough with the sugar coating and the nazi throwbacks of lugenpress.

  5. Dimitris Stamiris

    many times are fake …..or they dont tell us the all truth or they dont show us ”the other side”
    specially about politics , energy and debt

  6. Paul X

    “Is ‘fake news’ just news you don’t agree with?”…

    …..no, “fake news” is just news idiots do agree with

    • Tim Nick Knight

      No we can thank the Orange Prince , and his buddy Putin

    • Michael Michał Gajos

      CNN forged the term, and after they lost the election they admitted to geing a propaganda broadcast ratehr than news broadcast :>

      But hey keep believing station that told you that looking for information yourself is illegal, but its legal for them

  7. David Logue

    That’s not the White House its fake news its a fake building the FAKE PRESIDENT SAID SO !!!!

    • Asen Georgiev

      Reminder: “fake president” has been butt-raping the American fake nation over the last half year.

  8. David Logue

    That’s not the White House its fake news its a fake building the FAKE PRESIDENT SAID SO !!!!

  9. David Logue

    That’s not the White House its fake news its a fake building the FAKE PRESIDENT SAID SO !!!!

  10. David Logue

    That’s not the White House its fake news its a fake building the FAKE PRESIDENT SAID SO !!!!

  11. EU Reform- Proactive

    How can the ordinary voter preserve their sanity while the “democratic world” is invaded by: yellow journalism, scrupulous political self-promotion & their propaganda- which in turn is captured by corporatism & the establishment? Please tell us!

    Evolving EU Politics seem to be the art of creating treaties, marketing them to the (still) naive, used but ignored by the most powerful if inconvenient, but imposed merciless on the weakest. Fake news- or?

    • Thomas Beavitt

      “The truth” is certainly very hard to see. Moreover, I am sure you are right in implying that it is often deliberately obscured. But what if all of a sudden all deliberate obfuscatory activity were to cease? Would the truth be immediately emblazoned across the sky in block capitals? Or would different people continue to see different “truths” and struggle to communicate them to one another?

    • Oliver Stunt

      Please focus on the ontology of truth. Is it a state of all things in the universe, or a state of mind? You seem to discuss two different things: being in truth as a state of mind – and state of truth, as if it was the state of many things.
      That’s where your misunderstanding begins: if it’s a state of mind, obscurance of truth is crucial. If the state of mind, things are true for themself, indifferent to people.knowong it or being wrong – they are “just true”, so obscurance isn’t necessary.

    • Asen Georgiev

      Truth is the opposite of untrue.
      Sincerity is the opposite of lying.
      You can be honest when saying untruth and lie while saying the truth if you are poorly informed.
      The amount of people who are uncapable of distinguishing these simple categories is too damn high.

  12. Wal Sheppard

    Honest reporting tells what is and what was , fake reporting tells one side of what is and what was , standard bias for propaganda .

    • Edita Buržinskaitė

      Yes, unfortunately, by that standard pretty much everything is fake news nowadays. You’d be hard-pressed to find a piece of news that objectively analyzes evidence for both sides of the story.

  13. Profile photo of Luca Mapelli
    Luca Mapelli

    This “Fake news vs Truth” rethoric is cancer, really.

    These labels have become excuses not to demonstrate anything, to basically tell readers: “Just trust me”; and it works both sides. On the one hand, unreliable sit es keep flooding the world with “alternative facts” which are mostly unchecked, when not made up tout court. On the other hand, mainstream media strut around boasting they hold the Truth and provide the Facts, even when they give subjective opinions; they have been telling their side of the story for decades, and now that someones dares to push the “fakeometer” farther than they ever dared, they pretend to be outraged that their Truth has been challenged. Most likely they think: “Hey, why didn’t anybody tell me that you could lie so blatantly and get away with it? We’d not have bothered so much conceiling it all these years!”

  14. nando

    Come on… grab a dictionary…

    fake (feɪk)
    1. adjective
    not genuine; imitation or counterfeit.
    “she got on the plane with a fake passport”
    synonyms: forgery, counterfeit, copy, sham, fraud, hoax, imitation, mock-up, dummy, reproduction, lookalike, likeness;

    2. noun
    a thing that is not genuine; a forgery or sham.
    “fakes of Old Masters”
    synonyms: forgery, counterfeit, copy, sham, fraud, hoax, imitation, mock-up, dummy, reproduction, lookalike, likeness;

    3. verb
    forge or counterfeit (something).
    “she faked her spouse’s signature”
    synonyms: forge, counterfeit, falsify, sham, feign, mock up, copy, reproduce, replicate;

  15. Nando Aidos

    Come on… grab a dictionary…

    fake (feɪk)
    1. adjective – not genuine; imitation or counterfeit.
    “she got on the plane with a fake passport”
    synonyms: forgery, counterfeit, copy, sham, fraud, hoax, imitation, mock-up, dummy, reproduction, lookalike, likeness;

    2. noun – a thing that is not genuine; a forgery or sham.
    “fakes of Old Masters”
    synonyms: forgery, counterfeit, copy, sham, fraud, hoax, imitation, mock-up, dummy, reproduction, lookalike, likeness;

    3. verb – forge or counterfeit (something).
    “she faked her spouse’s signature”
    synonyms: forge, counterfeit, falsify, sham, feign, mock up, copy, reproduce, replicate;

    • Oliver Stunt

      I believe you took the qustion literaly, while you shouldn’t.

    • Nando Aidos

      Fake is fake! If the news are misleading but have some truth that is presented in a way I do not agree with then they should not be called fake. Those are two different things.

  16. Wolfe Tone

    No because a decent debate focuses on differing interpretations and opinion but agrees on the facts. Fake news just does away with the facts and prevents any serious debate from taking place.

  17. Bart Groen

    Nope, fake news is easy to spot: No sources, lack of links. Always check the links, especially if they’re talking about research, read the research yourself, if the abstract isn’t what the original article was talking about, it’s probably fake news. There is plenty of it available. Just question everything you read online and you’ll find tons of it.

    Funniest I’ve seen: Tonight! Bloodmoon and moon is at it’s closest point to earth ever!.
    A simple wikipedia search about the moon will reveil that the moons rotation is about 29 days, so every month the moon is on it’s closest point to earth

    • Juan Pablo Ceballos

      Also if there are links but backtracks to the author of said article, without peer reviews or further references. It’s also fake news. Cheers!

  18. Maurits Van de Kamp

    Just news that’s only brought by a handful of clickbaity websites who claim that all the world’s “main stream media” are in a conspiracy to hide the “truth”. Really, common sense isn’t that difficult. And neither is spotting fake news.

  19. Stefano Arduino

    There should be laws against diffusing fake news. FOX would start having a few problems… maybe it would start airing cartoons all day.

    • Adam Clowes

      lol……only ones honest.o.and rt

  20. Mark Turner

    no, fake news is news that is not factually correct or is bias etc

    You’re welcome!

  21. Terry Flynn

    Much of the news is fake or not reported. That’s why they want to shut down Facebook and twitter, as we can report the news and truth they don’t want us to hear.ourselves.

  22. Stephen J Gorog

    CNN is fake-twisted news just watch more stations and remember a few weeks back. If your a fanatic you will not be able to notice!

  23. Ashar Sandhu

    Fake news ,in fact , maybe half truth ..maybe it’s difficult to express or point out some objects but lack of evidence a person or group cannot spread ……in this way “fake” news comes to us …..sometimes fake news got powerful impact on mind even though it’s without solid proof …….it can be use demoralised the opponents even for short time …..consequences whatever be later but ……it is tool which is using nowadays…….

  24. Constantinos Kyprios

    Beside been fake, do we have to agree with everything a reporter or someone sis saying? Just that make them fake news to begin with..

  25. Jacopo Lampiano

    Well, here in Italy Movimento 5 Stelle’s leader, Beppe Grillo, has started to call fake news everything that goes against his propaganda (mostly composed of “real” fake news). And the most saddening thing is that it is the leading party.

  26. Constantinos Kyprios

    Plus is not about news anymore that is to sell events or at least ‘inform the public’, but about news and news agencies trying to influence events and exersise policy and society making..

    • Josep Barceló

      Not a very useful analysis. Sorry. To start with, not *every* piece of news is fake.

  27. Maia Alexandrova

    Fake news means informing people about facts that did not actually happen. Why do so many people believe these lies? Because they don’t question, they are just too trustful, gullible and with very limited knowledge about the world. This makes them easily manipulated and indoctrinated with certain ideas to serve someone’s agenda.

    For example, what facts were used to establish that Russian hackers were responsible for the Qatar crisis? If proofs are always hidden, then obviously, they don’t exist which means this piece of news is fake news in itself. If there were real facts behind a story, then they would have been revealed because this would be the truth. Hiding the truth means lying or perverting reality. This is why I don’t believe such stories where every source and proof are secret.

  28. catherine benning

    Is ‘fake news’ just news you don’t agree with?

    No. Fake news is outright lies regarding an event or situation. Sometimes it is a total fabrication and other times it is a an exaggerated or twisted story to give false news to the public as a political ploy. The way they spin a story on Trump or on Corbyn or anyone not in favour of the Globalist elite.

    And why the question as you know it well and practice it often.

    It has become so commonplace in Western news you can hardly get a straight story any more. And it is often done to save the cost of investigative journalism.

    The West has become Orwell’s mad house.

  29. catherine benning

    Is ‘fake news’ just news you don’t agree with?

    Here is some news you. States in the EU will wonder if this is fake.

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/814396/EU-Brexit-Guy-Verhofstadt-ABOLISH-EU-Commission-government

    This Guy is asking if it would be good to banish all 27 States from having a voice. Should each State any longer have a representative, he says no. He wants to do away with the Commission. LOL And replace it with 12 or 15 stooges who will be cheaper to buy.

    Read all about it. Now, is this news fake or is it kosher?

    • EU Reform- Proactive

      Catherine it’s interesting & worrying!

      Super Liberal & die-hard Europhile Verhofstadt (I-III) is the last to be trusted with new EU democratic models. The award of the “Vision for Europe” in 2002 seems to have affected him badly, believing he is destined to become King Leopold III of the EU.

      Even poor JCJ looks skywards contemplating how to conquer heaven before Verhofstadt can introduce EU “democratic Totalitarianism”. He urgently needs a political psychologist or be sent on extended but unpaid leave.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totalitarianism

  30. Ștefan Alexandru

    No? “Fake news” are pieces of information relayed through whichever mean that are demonstrably false or misleading.

  31. Donnie MacLean

    Debating Europe so *who* pray tell do you consider “fake news” ? The likes of CNN I would think no ? After all they’ve been exposed for their staging fake news. often enough. Smh

  32. Auer Bru

    NSA-like surveillance to track sources, frequency and impact analysis, authors and run intelligence analysis. I think the hydra has few dominant sources

  33. Karolina

    Fake news coming out of “Macedonia”…? You mean, the FYROM?

    And you are actually surprised? This is what the country is best at, fakeness. Fake history, fake national identity, fake elections, fake governments, fake democracy, etc. I thought that the West loved that. What is wrong with it? You don’t believe in self-determination any more? So the news can self-determine as well. It is real because it says so. Period.

  34. Karolina

    There are individuals on this forum spreading fake news as well. Links, videos, articles etc supposedly proving a crazy and exaggerated claim, probably, relying on the fact that the claim will make a specific long-lasting impression on people combined with the hope that they will never take the time to click on these links and look into the details. And so I once watched a video on here that was supposedly proof of the Scottish independence referendum having been rigged. The video basically showed two men chatting to each other, one saying to the other one that another person, a Russian that never appears in the video, was a monitor in the referendum and witnessed inconsistencies… Why then doesn’t the person himself appear in the video or make a formal complaint… And why is a Russian the only monitor who has reported these inconsistencies? Does he actually exist…?

    Either the people that post these links are paid to spread propaganda or themselves have been the victims of some and are a proof that it DOES work. Ultimately, everyone is responsible for what they read and doing their own research.

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