Fake News

and Identifying Fake News

What it is

The term "fake news" has been described extensively with reference to political viewpoints.

In part, "fake news" has been used as part of "The Big Lie" and alternatively to describe an opposing viewpoint as "The Big Lie". More succinctly, the term "fake news" describes false information, or sometimes opinion, embedded in what is proportedly a news story.

Essentially "fake news" is nothing more than information inserted into a news story that is something other than news or inserted for the purpose of misleading the recipient (reader, listener or viewer). Unfortunately "fake news" is found in sources ranging from right wing media to National Public Radio (NPR) programming. (State sponsored propaganda often contains "fake news" stories, but that quickly becomes very obvious.)

There are also "Paper coffee filter" articles, which can be a form of fake news, but "Paper coffee filter" articles are pretty much a specialty unto themselves; or perhaps could be described as a subset of "fake news".

The use of fake news and news distortion is generally not dependent on political viewpoint, although it is likely that the dominant political viewpoint of the particular media source or publication will of course be reflected in fake news from that particular publisher.

Since one is likely to read, view or listen to news sources close to one's political viewpoints, the focus of the fake news will also be likely to track one's political viewpoint. That said, not all fake news is intended to be politically persuasive. For example, exaggerated or completely fabricated weather reports seem to be more focused on attracting attention, presumably without political motive.

Identifying the Sources of Fake News and News Distortion

If fake news is part of the news format, this part is generally easy. Just look for or listen for items that are intentionally inserted into the news story itself.

Scripted exclamations (actually interjections or a form of interjection) or expressions of surprise. These seemingly imply a lack of intelligence by the listener:
Scripted "Oh!"

Scripted "Wow!"

Scripted "Oh, I see!"

Scripted interpertations of a news story when not intended to explain details:
Scripted "So [restatement of the news story information]."

Note that the word, "So" often precedes "fake news" comments, probably because the purpose is to tell the recipient how to interpret the story.

Broadcast or publication includes known falsehoods or conspiracy stories:
(False stories and conspiracy theories are pretty much an indication of false stories or conspiracy theories.)

Advertisements and obviously-compensated promotions not disclosed as such.

Stories obviously written by special interest entities..
These range from "fed" industry association articles, to chiropractors writing articles promoting chiropractory or "Luxation™"

"Paper Coffee Filter" articles
A tactic that combines industry association-fed articles with non-peer reviewed pseudoscience."

  Substantive news content

Identifying fake news in the substantive news content is often difficult:
The news story is confined to a single part of the political spectrum, and not confirmed by less partisan sources

The news story is refuted by credible sources or by fair court hearings
See, for example, allegations by the Donald Trump campaign against Dominion Voting Systems.
(There is a bit of a "Paper coffee filter" article tactic here, in that a different voting machine case involving Smartmatic related to Venezuelan ownership. Of note, Dominion is based in Canada and the US, which a quick Wikipedia search would reveal are pretty much unrelated to Venezuela.)

Opinion as News

This part is requires more reader/listener;viewer critique. Presumably one will think for oneself, so even if opinion is not identified, that opinion may not really have the intended effect, but can still be the origin of a fake news story.

Opinion disguised as part of the news story.
While most news reporting will contain an element of opinion, full-on interpretative statements should be clearly described as opinion or otherwise interpretive in nature.

First posted 26-Feb-23. Last revised 14-Mar-23.

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