Thing 12

Thing 12. Fake News

Purpose – The Crucial Truth

Detecting fake news, understanding how and why it is created and spreads is crucial to stopping its proliferation. This Thing will explore the origins of Fake News and help clarify what exactly we are talking about when we use this term. 


Fake news seems to have become a hot topic in the media and in our library information literacy conversations. Recently, the Media Landscapes campaign hosted Rachel Wightman to talk about Faith and Fake News. You can view that presentation (and the other Media Landscape events) at this link

Previous Things have included Propaganda, Disinformation, and News Literacy, so why the focus on Fake News; isn’t it old news? The answer is, while Fake News rose to prominence in the 2016 presidential election, it didn’t begin then and is by no means a passing fad. The spread of Fake News hasn’t abated and may even be rising in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. And since news keeps happening, there will always be something on which the world is focused, so there will always be an opportunity for false stories to conflict with truth. 

Why does it matter? I think most people, if asked, would tell you they are well informed about any given topic. Sure, many of them are probably wrong, or laboring under the weight of false information without even realizing it, but many people don’t seem to care, so what is the actual problem? Long term, having a citizenry without the ability to tell the difference between real and fake information leads to substantially bigger problems. Less informed people, difficulty making decisions (such as choosing a president or other political representatives), a blurring of the actual truth, and more. I think we can all agree that education is the bedrock of any civilization, and the ability to discern fact from fiction is a crucial element of any educated society. 

Take some time to review the information below, watch the videos and read the articles to help you gain a deeper understanding of how fake news is created, why people fall for it and what we can do to stop it. Share your thoughts and ideas in the evaluation section, as well as on the 23 Things website. Add your thoughts to the comments section so we can begin a dialog. 


Real News vs. Fake News | University of Louisville Libraries (3 mins)

What is Fake News? | CyberWise (3 mins)

Why Do Our Brains Love Fake News | KQED (5 mins)

The Vaccine for Fake News | Cambridge University (7 mins)


Information Literacy and Fake News: How the Field of Librarianship Can Help Combat the Epidemic of Fake News | Science Direct

Misinformation, Disinformation and Hoaxes: What’s the Difference | The Conversation

Five Minutes of Exposure to Fake News Can Alter a Person’s Behavior | PsyPost

A Few Simple Tricks Make Fake News Stories Stick in the Brain | Science News


Go Viral! | Cambridge University

Play this game to find out what you would need to do to become a viral spreader of fake news. This game will help you understand how social media is used to manipulate people. 

Not Real News | AP News

Visit this site and read through 3-5 entries and see if you can find a news story that is false, but you heard and assumed to be true. Then consider what about that story caused you to think it was true. 

Is It Legit? Vetting News Sources | NewsLit

Play this game to determine if you can tell the difference between real and fake news sources. 

Conversation Starters

Rachel Wightman’s presentation focused on Faith and Fake News, approaching this issue through the lens of her church. You could also look at it through several other views, politics, education, digital citizenship, and more. Should fake news be approached from these segmented perspectives or should this be a universal topic? How should it be handled to best stem the tide of its spread? 

Whose responsibility is it to stop the spread of fake news? Individual? Government? Schools? Librarians? Journalists? News Outlets? Someone else? Everyone? 


Additional Readings

Fake News: How To Spot Misinformation | NPR

Listening to What Trust in News Means to Users: Evidence from Four Countries | Reuters

Six Tips to Help You Detect Fake Science News

John Oliver Places Fake Sponsored Content on Local News: “Far Too Easy” | The Guardian

Media Literacy and Fake News: A Syllabus | JStor

LibGuides for Fake News

Cal State Long Beach

Gannon University

University of Louisville

University of Oregon

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