Are YOU contributing to fake news?


Bertrand Russell once said

“Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.”.

However, this is easier said than done. It seems that on a deep psychological level, we are attracted to clickbait and sensationalist headlines, which leaves us vulnerable to believing false information. Especially when we consider that lies travel faster than truth (Vosoughi et al, 2018).

Pictured: Fake news travels faster.
Credit: Self-made with PiktoChart

As fake news has developed, it has shifted away from celebrity death hoaxes towards politically charged stories. There are ‘bots’ which are “effective in attacking, hijacking, and altering discourse on social networking sites” (Wagner, et al., 2012),  and some believe this fake news was crucial in Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 USA election (Parkinson, 2016).

Identifying the power of fake news, organisations such as PolitiFact and Snopes attempt to categorise stories by their validity. Similarly, social-media sites started “punishing” those who publish false information. However, there will always be fake news so it’s crucial that individuals improve their own manual skills of identification.

Whilst Facebook and FullFact have published guides to identifying fake news, I outline an alternative approach to evaluating authenticity and reliability of news below:

Credit: Self-made with Biteable. Source for confidence on news: Statista.
If you can’t remember the steps – just save the image below and refer to it when in doubt!

Credit: Self-made with Pitkochart, 2018.

From these questions, one should look for the news to be:

  • Up to date
  • Backed up by additional sources
  • Credited to an author and publisher who have a good reputation.
  • Looking to inform without huge bias.

I concur with Coughlan that we should educate children about “fake news”(Coughlan, 2018), and this could be achieved through a game, as suggested by Cambridge researchers. These skills will prove as crucial as reading and writing.

In conclusion, it seems identifying reliable sources cannot be fixed by technology itself. Therefore, it is crucial that we follow the “CRAP” process, and check fact-checking sites, before we share, or even believe, things we read online.


Word Count (excluding in-line citations): 300 words.


B. Russell, (1951). The Best Answer to Fanaticism–Liberalism. The New York Times

B. Gardiner, (2015). You’ll be outraged at how easy it was to get you to click on this headline. 

C. Wagner, S. Mitter, C. Körner, and M. Strohmaier, (2012). When social bots attack: Modeling susceptibility of users in online social networksProceedings of the WWW ’12 Workshop on ‘Making sense of microposts

S. Coughlan (2017). Schools should teach pupils how to spot ‘fake news’. BBC News

H. Robinson (2016). Click and elect: how fake news helped Donald Trump win a real election. The Guardian.

S. Vosoughi, D. Roy, S. Aral (2018). The spread of true and false news online. Science Mag