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Academic Integrity - Referencing, Citation & Avoiding Plagiarism: Fake News

This guide explains what referencing and citation is and how to use APA and MLA. It includes a short interactive tutorial on each style.

What is Fake News?

Fake news is the promotion and propagation of news articles via social media that are false or misleading. These articles are promoted in such a way that they appear to be spread by other users, as opposed to being paid-for advertising. The news stories distributed are designed to influence or manipulate readers’ opinions on a certain topic towards certain objectives.

(Gu and Yarochkin, 2017)

Examples of Fake News

Below are just some types of fake news content. Fake news can be used across a range of different platforms and online media.


Fake News by

Short animation showing some of the tricks for spotting fake news online.


Eli Pariser talks about what a filter bubble is, how it affects societies' access to information, and ultimately the functioning of democracy.

Uses of Fake News

Fake News is not an end in itself. It always has some sort of motivation. Here are just some, but the list grows over time.

Political motivation (e.g. for winning an election).

Financial Gain (e.g. influence share prices).

Silence or discredit a journalist.

Incite mass protest.

Character assassination.

Data Leaks (real data mixed with untrue or biased data).

Manipulating public opinion on a topic, event or person.


Fake News Stories

Here are two Fake News stories.

Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President. See here for the CNBC/BuzzFeed story with other examples too.

A Spanish woman pretended to be blind for 28 years to avoid social interaction. This was reported as satire in Spanish but picked up as fact in English language news sources. See here for the story from BuzzFeed.



Types of Fake News

Below are just some types of fake news content. Fake news can be used across a range of different platforms and online media.

Fake news stories in legitimate press

Fake tweets, posts and other online content

Satirical or parody news stories presented as fact

Legitimate news used in an incorrect context

Buying posts or re-posts

Buying comments

Flooding comments with poisonous content 

Buying groups of websites and cross-referencing fake news stories

Buying YouTube videos

Buying a trending YouTube video

Creating an online celebrity (to endorse fake news content)


Fake News Concepts

Coined by Eli Pariser in 2011, the term Filter Bubble is described as a form of intellectual isolation in the online world of information.

Search engines, social media platforms, and websites create profiles of users based on their behaviour online. These services then tailor the information in search results, news feeds, advertisements, and other offerings to match the profile of interests they have created.

In this way, two people searching for information on the exact same topic, using the exact same search engine and search terms can get very different results.

Why not try it with a friend and see how your search results differ?

(Techopedia, 2017)

Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping political debate or public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

Usage example: Herald (Glasgow) (Nexis) 17 Nov. 15   "Social media..has become a post-truth nether world in which readers willingly participate in their own deception because it feels good."

(Oxford English Dictionary, 2017)

Click bait are headlines online that intentionally leave out crucial information to mislead the user into clicking. These sites then lead readers to advertising or other unwanted content.

(Center for News Literacy, 2017)

Bias is a tendency towards thinking or writing in a certain way about the world. This can distort your ability to weigh evidence in an objective manner and reaching a fair and accurate judgment. People can be biased and so can news sources.

How to spot media bias

  • Look for evidence of a pattern of unfairness over time
  • Compare a variety of news outlets, especially to search for bias by omission
  • Take note of the self-interest of those alleging bias

(Center for News Literacy, 2017)

Confirmation bias is pursuing information that reassures or reflects a person’s particular point of view.

An example of this would be if a person believed that global warming did not exist. Any article or information confirming this idea would be read by the person. She/he would then have personal opinions reinforced and disregard anything that disputes that point of view.

This is almost the opposite of thinking critically.

(Center for News Literacy, 2017)

Reliable Information has been verified through news gathering, assessment, and weighing of a broad range of evidence. It is independent from any unwarranted control, influence or support from interested parties. It displays accountability in the form of the author displaying his or her real name with the article, along with any associations.

(Center for News Literacy, 2017)

Scientific Truth is a statement of probability proportional to the evidence, which will change over time, as further research changes our understanding daily of everything from the size of the largest dinosaur to the nature of the former planet Pluto.

(Center for News Literacy, 2017)

Evidence is a set of facts or information that either supports or refutes the truth of a belief, proposition or incident.

Evidence can be Direct (captured first hand) or Indirect (a step or two removed from events).

Weighing the evidence is a key skill in critical thinking. It allows you to weigh up the pros and cons of a theory or proposition, identify any assumptions and decide for yourself what you think is valid.

(Center for News Literacy, 2017)

Identifying Fake News



Fake News Quiz

Due to compatibility issues, this quiz works best on Internet Explorer or FireFox.

Creative Commons license


BBC News (2017) Prices for fake news campaigns revealed: BBC. Available at:

Center for News Literacy (2017) Glossary: the language for news literacy: Stoney Brook Center for News Literacy. Available at:

Daro, I. N. (2017) 'Nope, A Woman Didn't Fake Being Blind For 28 Years To Avoid Social Interactions', BuzzFeed. Available at:

Gu, L., Kropplov, V. and Yarochkin, F. (2017) The Fake News Machine: How Propagandists Abuse the Internet and Manipulate the Public. Available at:

Oxford English Dictionary "post-truth, adj.". Oxford University Press.

Pariser, E. (2011) The filter bubble: what the Internet is hiding from you. London: Viking.

Ritchie, H. (2017) 'Read all about it: The biggest fake news stories of 2016', Available at:

Techopedia Online 2017. "Filter Bubble". Techopedia. Available at: