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Research Guides

Jackman Humanities Institute - Scholars in Residence - 2023

A library guide supporting research projects included in the JHI SiR 2020 program.

What is Fake News?

What is fake news? 

Ask and try to get them to answer briefly, then correct/adjust/supplement/share your definition:

  • Typically, it refers to the distorting, exaggerating, or falsifying reports on a topic

  • It is meant to mislead the audience, if not outright lie about a subject


There are usually multiple goals behind fake news:

  1. Persuading the reader/viewer to hold one ideological viewpoint or position over another based on information that is simply not true – not true by the fact that it is false, or less than completely factual – thus it acting as propaganda

  2. Obscure/distort factual information in hopes of damaging political entities (politicians, a governmental department, a nation)

  3. Also to make money online through ads - the creator makes a few cents each time that a story gets clicked on. Social media like facebook and twitter drives people to the stories.


  • In simpler terms, fake news = lie(s)

    • Fake news is different than reporting the present details of a story: reporting a story that turns out to not be true is part of the journalistic/editorial process, and not a way of purposely deceiving the audience – a story can naturally change as it develops (Give a specific example)

    • Fake news intends to mislead on purpose by making information up

BUT! There are different kinds of fake news. Mention The Onion and The Beaverton. Check out this libguide developed by University of Washington Libraries on various types of fake news

~ Adapted from Whitney Kemble's Lib4Life session "Fake News," UTSC Library

Issues with Spreading Fake News

  • Frequently, people will share news stories on social media without verifying whether they are actually true. 

  • Some common problems that arise include sharing a post that’s from some kind of random account or group (not an official news source) with info/photos but not citing any sources or linking to any other coverage of the topic - usually about something that immediately makes people upset or panic, like violence against animals or people, health scares, etc.

  • sharing a news article that is out-of-date - perhaps from the same date but a few years' ago. This is an issue because people can get upset that something that had happened some time ago.