Fake news

Fake news (also known as junk news, pseudo-news, or hoax news[1][2]) is a form of news consisting of deliberate disinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional news media (print and broadcast) or online social media.[3][4] Digital news has brought back and increased the usage of fake news, or yellow journalism.[5] The news is then often reverberated as misinformation in social media but occasionally finds its way to the mainstream media as well.[6]

Fake news is written and published usually with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically,[7][8][9] often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines to increase readership. Similarly, clickbait stories and headlines earn advertising revenue from this activity.[7]

The relevance of fake news has increased in post-truth politics. For media outlets, the ability to attract viewers to their websites is necessary to generate online advertising revenue. Publishing a story with false content that attracts users benefits advertisers and improves ratings. Easy access to online advertisement revenue, increased political polarization and the popularity of social media, primarily the Facebook News Feed,[3] have all been implicated in the spread of fake news,[7][10] which competes with legitimate news stories. Hostile government actors have also been implicated in generating and propagating fake news, particularly during elections.[11][12]

Fake news undermines serious media coverage and makes it more difficult for journalists to cover significant news stories.[14] An analysis by BuzzFeed found that the top 20 fake news stories about the 2016 U.S. presidential election received more engagement on Facebook than the top 20 election stories from 19 major media outlets.[15] Anonymously-hosted fake news websites[3] lacking known publishers have also been criticized, because they make it difficult to prosecute sources of fake news for libel.[16]

The term lying press[17][18] is at times used to cast doubt upon legitimate news from an opposing political standpoint. During and after his presidential campaign and election, Donald Trump popularized the term "fake news" in this sense, regardless of the truthfulness of the news, when he used it to describe the negative press coverage of himself.[19][20] In part, as a result of Trump's misuse, the term has come under increasing criticism, and in October 2018 the British government decided that it will no longer use the term because it is "a poorly-defined and misleading term that conflates a variety of false information, from genuine error through to foreign interference in democratic processes."[21]


Fake news is a neologism[3][22][24] often used to refer to fabricated news. This type of news, found in traditional news, social media[3] or fake news websites, has no basis in fact, but is presented as being factually accurate.[25]

Michael Radutzky, a producer of CBS 60 Minutes, said his show considers fake news to be "stories that are probably false, have enormous traction [popular appeal] in the culture, and are consumed by millions of people." These stories are not only found in politics, but also in areas like vaccination, stock values and nutrition.[26] He did not include news that is "invoked by politicians against the media for stories that they don't like or for comments that they don't like" as fake news. Guy Campanile, also a 60 Minutes producer said, "What we are talking about are stories that are fabricated out of thin air. By most measures, deliberately, and by any definition, that's a lie."[27]

The intent and purpose of fake news is important. In some cases, what appears to be fake news may be news satire, which uses exaggeration and introduces non-factual elements that are intended to amuse or make a point, rather than to deceive. Propaganda can also be fake news.[7] Some researchers have highlighted that "fake news" may be distinguished not just by the falsity of its content, but also the "character of [its] online circulation and reception".[28]

Claire Wardle of First Draft News identifies seven types of fake news:[29]

  1. satire or parody ("no intention to cause harm but has potential to fool")
  2. false connection ("when headlines, visuals or captions don't support the content")
  3. misleading content ("misleading use of information to frame an issue or an individual")
  4. false context ("when genuine content is shared with false contextual information")
  5. impostor content ("when genuine sources are impersonated" with false, made-up sources)
  6. manipulated content ("when genuine information or imagery is manipulated to deceive", as with a "doctored" photo)
  7. fabricated content ("new content is 100% false, designed to deceive and do harm")

In the context of the United States of America and its election processes in the 2010s, fake news generated considerable controversy and argument, with some commentators defining concern over it as moral panic or mass hysteria and others worried about damage done to public trust.[30][31][32]

In January 2017, the United Kingdom House of Commons commenced a parliamentary inquiry into the "growing phenomenon of fake news".[33]

Some, most notably United States President Donald Trump, have broadened the meaning of "fake news" to include news that was negative of his presidency.[34][35]

In November 2017, Claire Wardle (mentioned above) announced she has rejected the phrase "fake news" and "censors it in conversation", finding it "woefully inadequate" to describe the issues. She now speaks of "information pollution" and distinguishes between three types of problems: 'mis-information', 'dis-information', and 'mal-information':

  1. Mis-information: false information disseminated without harmful intent.
  2. Dis-information: created and shared by people with harmful intent.
  3. Mal-information: the sharing of "genuine" information with the intent to cause harm.[36]

Author Terry Pratchett, who had a background as a journalist and press officer, was among the first to be concerned about the spread of fake news on the Internet. In a 1995 interview with Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, he said "Let's say I call myself the Institute for Something-or-other and I decide to promote a spurious treatise saying the Jews were entirely responsible for the second world war and the Holocaust didn’t happen and it goes out there on the Internet and is available on the same terms as any piece of historical research which has undergone peer review and so on. There’s a kind of parity of esteem of information on the net. It’s all there: there’s no way of finding out whether this stuff has any bottom to it or whether someone has just made it up". Gates was optimistic and disagreed, saying that authorities on the Net would index and check facts and reputations in a much more sophisticated way than in print. But it was Pratchett who had "accurately predicted how the internet would propagate and legitimise fake news".[37]


Here are a few examples of fake news and how they are viewed:

  • Clickbait
  • Propaganda
  • Satire/parody
  • Sloppy journalism
  • Misleading headings
  • Biased or slanted news

These are features of fake news and may help to identify and avoid instances of fake news.[38]


The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) published a summary in diagram form (pictured at right) to assist people in recognizing fake news.[39] Its main points are:

  1. Consider the source (to understand its mission and purpose)
  2. Read beyond the headline (to understand the whole story)
  3. Check the authors (to see if they are real and credible)
  4. Assess the supporting sources (to ensure they support the claims)
  5. Check the date of publication (to see if the story is relevant and up to date)
  6. Ask if it is a joke (to determine if it is meant to be satire)
  7. Review your own biases (to see if they are affecting your judgment)
  8. Ask experts (to get confirmation from independent people with knowledge).

The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), launched in 2015, supports international collaborative efforts in fact-checking, provides training, and has published a code of principles.[40] In 2017 it introduced an application and vetting process for journalistic organisations.[41] One of IFCN's verified signatories, the independent, not-for-profit media journal The Conversation, created a short animation explaining its fact checking process, which involves "extra checks and balances, including blind peer review by a second academic expert, additional scrutiny and editorial oversight".[42]

Beginning in the 2017 school year, children in Taiwan study a new curriculum designed to teach critical reading of propaganda and the evaluation of sources. Called "media literacy", the course provides training in journalism in the new information society.[43]

Detecting fake news online

Fake news has become increasingly prevalent over the last few years, with over 100 incorrect articles and rumors spread incessantly just with regard to the 2016 United States presidential election.[44] These fake news articles tend to come from satirical news websites or individual websites with an incentive to propagate false information, either as clickbait or to serve a purpose.[44] Since they typically hope to intentionally promote incorrect information, such articles are quite difficult to detect.[45] When identifying a source of information, one must look at many attributes, including but not limited to the content of the email and social media engagements.[45] specifically, the language is typically more inflammatory in fake news than real articles, in part because the purpose is to confuse and generate clicks.[45] Furthermore, modeling techniques such as n-gram encodings and bag of words have served as other linguistic techniques to determine the legitimacy of a news source.[45] On top of that, researchers have determined that visual-based cues also play a factor in categorizing an article, specifically some features can be designed to assess if a picture was legitimate and provides more clarity on the news.[45] There is also many social context features that can play a role, as well as the model of spreading the news. Websites such as “Snopes” try to detect this information manually, while certain universities are trying to build mathematical models to do this themselves.[44]



In the 13th century BC, Rameses the Great spread lies and propaganda portraying the Battle of Kadesh as a stunning victory for the Egyptians; he depicted scenes of himself smiting his foes during the battle on the walls of nearly all his temples. The treaty between the Egyptians and the Hittites, however, reveals that the battle was actually a stalemate.[47]

During the first century BC, Octavian ran a campaign of misinformation against his rival Mark Antony, portraying him as a drunkard, a womanizer, and a mere puppet of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII.[48] He published a document purporting to be Mark Antony's will, which claimed that Mark Antony, upon his death, wished to be entombed in the mausoleum of the Ptolemaic pharaohs. Although the document may have been forged, it invoked outrage from the Roman populace.[49] Mark Antony ultimately killed himself after his defeat in the Battle of Actium upon hearing false rumors propagated by Cleopatra herself claiming that she had committed suicide.[46]

During the second and third centuries AD, false rumors were spread about Christians claiming that they engaged in ritual cannibalism and incest.[50][51] In the late third century AD, the Christian apologist Lactantius invented and exaggerated stories about pagans engaging in acts of immorality and cruelty,[52] while the anti-Christian writer Porphyry invented similar stories about Christians.[53]


In 1475, a fake news story in Trent claimed that the Jewish community had murdered a two-and-a-half-year-old Christian infant named Simonino.[54] The story resulted in all the Jews in the city being arrested and tortured; fifteen of them were burned at the stake.[54] Pope Sixtus IV himself attempted to stamp out the story; however, by that point, it had already spread beyond anyone's control.[54] Stories of this kind were known as "blood libel"; they claimed that Jews purposely killed Christians, especially Christian children, and used their blood for religious or ritual purposes.[55]

Early modern period

After the invention of the printing press in 1439, publications became widespread but there was no standard of journalistic ethics to follow. By the 17th century, historians began the practice of citing their sources in footnotes. In 1610 when Galileo went on trial, the demand for verifiable news increased.[54]

During the 18th century publishers of fake news were fined and banned in the Netherlands; one man, Gerard Lodewijk van der Macht, was banned four times by Dutch authorities—and four times he moved and restarted his press.[56] In the American colonies, Benjamin Franklin wrote fake news about murderous "scalping" Indians working with King George III in an effort to sway public opinion in favor of the American Revolution.[54]

Canards, the successors of the 16th century pasquinade, were sold in Paris on the street for two centuries, starting in the 17th century. In 1793, Marie Antoinette was executed in part because of popular hatred engendered by a canard on which her face had been printed.[57]

During the era of slave-owning in the United States, supporters of slavery propagated fake news stories about African Americans, whom white people considered to have lower status.[58] Violence occurred in reaction to the spread of some fake news events. In one instance, stories of African Americans spontaneously turning white spread through the south and struck fear into the hearts of many people.[59]

Rumors and anxieties about slave rebellions were common in Virginia from the beginning of the colonial period, despite the only major uprising occurring in the 19th century. One particular instance of fake news regarding revolts occurred in 1730. The serving governor of Virginia at the time, Governor William Gooch, reported that a slave rebellion had occurred but was effectively put down – although this never happened. After Gooch discovered the falsehood, he ordered slaves found off plantations to be punished, tortured and made prisoners.[60]

19th century

One instance of fake news was the Great Moon Hoax of 1835. The New York Sun published articles about a real-life astronomer and a made-up colleague who, according to the hoax, had observed bizarre life on the moon. The fictionalized articles successfully attracted new subscribers, and the penny paper suffered very little backlash after it admitted the next month that the series had been a hoax.[54][61] Such stories were intended to entertain readers and not to mislead them.[56]

From 1800 to 1810, James Cheetham made use of fictional stories to advocate politically against Aaron Burr.[62][63] His stories were often defamatory and he was frequently sued for libel.[64][65][66]

Yellow journalism peaked in the mid-1890s characterising the sensationalist journalism that arose in the circulation war between Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. Pulitzer and other yellow journalism publishers goaded the United States into the Spanish–American War, which was precipitated when the USS Maine exploded in the harbor of Havana, Cuba.[67]

20th century

Fake news became popular and spread quickly in the 1900s. Media like newspapers, articles, and magazines were in high demand because of technology.[68] During the First World War, an example of anti-German atrocity propaganda was that of an alleged "German Corpse Factory" in which the German battlefield dead were rendered down for fats used to make nitroglycerine, candles, lubricants, human soap and boot dubbing. Unfounded rumors regarding such a factory circulated in the Allied press starting in 1915, and by 1917 the English-language publication North China Daily News presented these allegations as true at a time when Britain was trying to convince China to join the Allied war effort; this was based on new, allegedly true stories from The Times and The Daily Mail that turned out to be forgeries. These false allegations became known as such after the war, and in the Second World War Joseph Goebbels used the story in order to deny the ongoing massacre of Jews as British propaganda. According to Joachim Neander and Randal Marlin, the story also "encouraged later disbelief" when reports about the Holocaust surfaced after the liberation of Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps.[69] After Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power in Germany in 1933, they established the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda under the control of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.[70] The Nazis used both print and broadcast journalism to promote their agendas, either by obtaining ownership of those media or exerting political influence.[71] Throughout World War II, both the Axis and the Allies employed fake news in the form of propaganda to persuade the public at home and in enemy countries.[72][73] The British Political Warfare Executive used radio broadcasts and distributed leaflets to discourage German troops.[70]

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has published that The New York Times printed fake news "depicting Russia as a socialist paradise."[74] During 1932–1933, The New York Times published numerous articles by its Moscow bureau chief, Walter Duranty, who won a Pulitzer prize for a series of reports about the Soviet Union.

"The War of the Worlds" is a 1938 episode of the American radio drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air. Directed and narrated by actor and filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds (1898), presented as a series of simulated news bulletins. Although preceded by a clear introduction that the show was a drama, it became famous for allegedly causing mass panic, although the reality of the panic is disputed as the program had relatively few listeners. An investigation was run by The Federal Communications Commission to examine the mass hysteria produced by this radio programming; no law was found broken.[75] This event was an example the early stages of society's dependency on information from print to radio and other media. Fake news can even be found within this example, the true extent of the "hysteria" from the radio broadcast has also been falsely recorded. The most extreme case and reaction after the radio broadcast was a group of Grover Mill locals attacking a water tower because they falsely identified it as an alien.[76]

21st century

In the 21st century, the impact of fake news became widespread,[4] as well as the usage of the term. The opening of the Internet to the people in the 90s was a movement meant to allow them access to information. Over time, the Internet has grown to unimaginable heights with tons of information coming in all the time which allows the Internet to be a host for plenty of unwanted, untruthful and misleading information that can be made by anyone.[77][78] Fake news has grown from being sent via emails to attacking social media.[79] Besides referring to made-up stories designed to deceive readers into clicking on links, maximizing traffic and profit, the term has also referred to satirical news, whose purpose is not to mislead but rather to inform viewers and share humorous commentary about real news and the mainstream media.[80][81] United States examples of satire (as opposed to fake news) include the television show Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Onion newspaper.[82][83][84]

21st century fake news is often intended to increase the financial profits of the news outlet. In an interview with NPR, Jestin Coler, former CEO of the fake media conglomerate Disinfomedia, said who writes fake news articles, who funds these articles, and why fake news creators create and distribute false information. Coler, who has since left his role as a fake news creator, said that his company employed 20 to 25 writers at a time and made $10,000 to $30,000 monthly from advertisements. Coler began his career in journalism as a magazine salesman before working as a freelance writer. He said he entered the fake news industry to prove to himself and others just how rapidly fake news can spread.[85] Disinfomedia is not the only outlet responsible for the distribution of fake news; Facebook users play a major role in feeding into fake news stories by making sensationalized stories "trend", according to BuzzFeed media editor Craig Silverman, and the individuals behind Google AdSense basically fund fake news websites and their content.[86] Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said, "I think the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election in any way, I think is a pretty crazy idea" and then a few days later he blogged that Facebook was looking for ways to flag fake news stories.[87]

Many online pro-Trump fake news stories are being sourced out of a city of Veles in Macedonia, where approximately seven different fake news organizations are employing hundreds of teenagers to rapidly produce and plagiarize sensationalist stories for different U.S. based companies and parties.[88]

One fake news writer, Paul Horner, was behind the widespread hoax that he was the graffiti artist Banksy and had been arrested;[89][90] that a man stopped a robbery in a diner by quoting Pulp Fiction;[91][92] and that he had an "enormous impact" on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to CBS News.[93] These stories consistently appeared in Google's top news search results, were shared widely on Facebook, were taken seriously and shared by third parties such as Trump presidential campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Eric Trump, ABC News and the Fox News Channel.[94][95][96] Horner later claimed that his work during this period was intended "to make Trump's supporters look like idiots for sharing my stories".[97]

In a November 2016 interview with The Washington Post, Horner expressed regret for the role his fake news stories played in the election and surprise at how gullible people were in treating his stories as news.[91][98][99][100] In February 2017 Horner said, "I truly regret my comment about saying that I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me. I know all I did was attack him and his supporters and got people not to vote for him. When I said that comment it was because I was confused how this evil got elected President and I thought maybe instead of hurting his campaign, maybe I had helped it. My intention was to get his supporters NOT to vote for him and I know for a fact that I accomplished that goal. The far right, a lot of the Bible thumpers and alt-right were going to vote him regardless, but I know I swayed so many that were on the fence."[101]

In December 2016, while speaking on Anderson Cooper 360, Horner said that all news is fake news and said CNN "spread misinformation", which was one month before Trump leveled the same criticism at that network.[102][103]

Horner spoke at the European Parliament in March, speaking about fake news and the importance of fact checking.[104] According to a 2017 BuzzFeed article, Horner stated that a story of his about a rape festival in India helped generate over $250,000 in donations to GiveIndia, a site that helps rape victims in India.[105][106][107] Horner said he dislikes being grouped with people who write fake news solely to be misleading. "They just write it just to write fake news, like there's no purpose, there's no satire, there's nothing clever. All the stories I wrote were to make Trump's supporters look like idiots for sharing my stories."[97] The Huffington Post called Horner a "Performance Artist".[108] Horner has been referred to as a "hoax artist" by outlets such as the Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune.[109]

Kim LaCapria of the fact checking website Snopes.com has stated that, in America, fake news is a bipartisan phenomenon, saying that "[t]here has always been a sincerely held yet erroneous belief misinformation is more red than blue in America, and that has never been true."[110] Jeff Green of Trade Desk agrees the phenomenon affects both sides. Green's company found that affluent and well-educated persons in their 40s and 50s are the primary consumers of fake news. He told Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes that this audience tends to live in an "echo chamber" and that these are the people who vote.[111]

In 2014, the Russian Government used disinformation via networks such as RT to create a counter-narrative after Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.[112] In 2016, NATO claimed it had seen a significant rise in Russian propaganda and fake news stories since the invasion of Crimea in 2014.[113] Fake news stories originating from Russian government officials were also circulated internationally by Reuters news agency and published in the most popular news websites in the United States.[114]

A 2018 study at Oxford University[115] found that Trump's supporters consumed the "largest volume of 'junk news' on Facebook and Twitter":

"On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters consumes the largest volume of junk news, and junk news is the largest proportion of news links they share," the researchers concluded. On Facebook, the skew was even greater. There, "extreme hard right pages – distinct from Republican pages – share more junk news than all the other audiences put together."[116]

In 2018,[117] researchers from Princeton University, Dartmouth College and the University of Exeter examined the consumption of fake news during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Their findings showed that Trump supporters and older Americans (over 60) were far more likely to consume fake news than Clinton supporters. Those most likely to visit fake news websites were the 10% of Americans who consumed the most conservative information. There was a very large difference (800%) in the consumption of fake news stories as related to total news consumption between Trump supporters (6.2%) and Clinton supporters (0.8%).[117][118]

The study also showed that fake pro-Trump and fake pro-Clinton news stories were read by their supporters, but with a significant difference: Trump supporters consumed far more (40%) than Clinton supporters (15%). Facebook was by far the key "gateway" website where these fake stories were spread and which led people to then go to the fake news websites. Fact checks of fake news were rarely seen by consumers,[117][118] with none of those who saw a fake news story being reached by a related fact check.[119]

Brendan Nyhan, one of the researchers, emphatically stated in an interview on NBC News: "People got vastly more misinformation from Donald Trump than they did from fake news websites – full stop."[118]

NBC NEWS: "It feels like there's a connection between having an active portion of a party that's prone to seeking false stories and conspiracies and a president who has famously spread conspiracies and false claims. In many ways, demographically and ideologically, the president fits the profile of the fake news users that you're describing."

NYHAN: "It's worrisome if fake news websites further weaken the norm against false and misleading information in our politics, which unfortunately has eroded. But it's also important to put the content provided by fake news websites in perspective. People got vastly more misinformation from Donald Trump than they did from fake news websites – full stop."[118]

A 2019 study by researchers at Princeton and New York University found that a person's likelihood of sharing fake-news articles correlated more strongly with age than it did education, sex, or political views. 11% of users older than 65 shared an article consistent with the study's definition of fake news. Just 3% of users ages 18 to 29 did the same.[120]

Another issue in mainstream media is the usage of the filter bubble, a "bubble" that has been created that gives the viewer, on social media platforms, a specific piece of the information knowing they will like it. Thus creating fake news and biased news because only half the story is being shared, the portion the viewer liked. "In 1996, Nicolas Negroponte predicted a world where information technologies become increasingly customizable."[121] Decades ago people predicted that customized news would become a reality. This becomes a problem in today's society because people are seeing only bits and pieces and not the whole issues making it much harder to solve the issues or talk about it worldwide.

On the Internet

The roots of fake news

[[File:The_roots_of_'fake_news'.png|thumb|314x314px|The roots of "fake news", UNESCO's World Trends Report] The term "fake news" gained importance with the electoral context in Western Europe and North America. It is determined by fraudulent content in news format and its velocity.[122] According to Bounegru, Gray, Venturini and Mauri, fake news is when a deliberate lie "is picked up by dozens of other blogs, retransmitted by hundreds of websites, cross-posted over thousands of social media accounts and read by hundreds of thousands" that it then effectively becomes "fake news".[123] On January 10, 2019 Fox Nation ran a documentary called Black Eye: Dan Rather and the Birth of Fake News.

The evolving nature of online business models encourages the production of information that is "click-worthy" and independent of its accuracy.[124]

The nature of trust depends on the assumptions that non-institutional forms of communication are freer from power and more able to report information that mainstream media are perceived as unable or unwilling to reveal. Declines in confidence in much traditional media[125] and expert knowledge[126] have created fertile grounds for alternative, and often obscure sources of information to appear as authoritative and credible. This ultimately leaves users confused about basic facts.[127]

Internet companies with threatened credibility tend to develop new responses to limit fake news and reduce financial incentives for its proliferation.[128][129]

In websites

When the Internet was first made accessible for public use in the 1990s, its main purpose was for the seeking and accessing of information.[130] As fake news was introduced to the Internet, this made it difficult for some people to find truthful information. The impact of fake news has become a worldwide phenomenon.[131] Fake news is often spread through the use of fake news websites, which, in order to gain credibility, specialize in creating attention-grabbing news, which often impersonate well-known news sources.[132][133][134] Jestin Coler, who said he does it for "fun",[27] has indicated that he earned US$10,000 per month from advertising on his fake news websites.[111] In 2017, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee claimed that fake news was one of the three most significant new disturbing Internet trends that must first be resolved, if the Internet is to be capable of truly "serving humanity." The other two new disturbing trends that Berners-Lee described as threatening the Internet were the recent surge in the use of the Internet by governments for both citizen-surveillance purposes, and for cyber-warfare purposes.[135] Research has shown that fake news hurts social media and online based outlets far worse than traditional print and TV outlets. After a survey was conducted, it was found that 58% of people had less trust in social media news stories as opposed to 24% of people in mainstream media after learning about fake news.[136]

Although most fake news websites are to design to either persuade people or make money from ads while drawing more people to their site from persuading people of fake news, some recent websites such as http://fakenews.com claim they have been designed to amuse people by creating news that is obviously so ridiculously fake that simply amuses people instead of trying to convince them of something untrue.[137]

How fake news spreads and goes viral

Fake news has the tendency to become viral among the public. With the presence of social media platforms like Twitter, it becomes easier for false information to diffuse quickly. Research has found that false political information tends to spread “3 times” faster than other false news.[138] On Twitter, false tweets have a much higher chance of being retweeted than truthful tweets. More so, it is humans who are responsible in disseminating false news and information as opposed to bots and click-farms. The tendency for humans to spread false information has to do with human behavior; according to research, humans are attracted to events and information that are surprising and new, and, as a result, causes high-arousal in the brain.[139][140] This ultimately leads humans to retweet or share false information, which are usually characterized with clickbait and eye-catching titles. This prevents people from stopping to verify the information. As a result, massive online communities form around a piece of false news without any prior fact checking or verification of the veracity of the information.

Popularity of fake news

Fake news has gained lots of popularity with various media outlets and platforms. Researchers at Pew Research Center discovered that over 60% of Americans access news through social media compared to traditional newspaper and magazines.[141] With the popularity of social media, individuals can easily access fake news or similar content. One study looks at the number of fake news articles being accessed by viewers in 2016 and found that each individual was exposed to at least one or more fake news articles daily. As a result, fake news is omnipresent among the viewer population and results in its ability to spread across the internet.

Intentionally deceptive photoshopped image of Hillary Clinton over a 1977 photo of Peoples Temple cult leader Jim Jones.

Bots on social media

In the mid 1990s, Nicolas Negroponte anticipated a world where news through technology become progressively personalized. In his 1996 book Being Digital he predicted a digital life where news consumption becomes an extremely personalized experience and newspapers adapted content to reader preferences. This prediction has since been reflected in news and social media feeds of modern day.[142]

Bots have the potential to increase the spread of fake news, as they use algorithms to decide what articles and information specific users like, without taking into account the authenticity of an article. Bots mass-produce and spread articles, regardless of the credibility of the sources, allowing them to play an essential role in the mass spread of fake news, as bots are capable of creating fake accounts and personalities on the web that are then gaining followers, recognition, and authority. Additionally, almost 30% of the spam and content spread on the Internet originates from these software bots.[143]

In the 21st century, the capacity to mislead was enhanced by the widespread use of social media. For example, one 21st century website that enabled fake news' proliferation was the Facebook newsfeed.[144][145] In late 2016 fake news gained notoriety following the uptick in news content by this means,[10][146] and its prevalence on the micro-blogging site Twitter.[146] In the United States, 62% of Americans use social media to receive news.[147] Many people use their Facebook news feed to get news, despite Facebook not being considered a news site.[148] According to Craig McClain, over 66% of Facebook users obtain news from the site.[149] This, in combination with increased political polarization and filter bubbles, led to a tendency for readers to mainly read headlines.[150]

Numerous individuals and news outlets have stated that fake news may have influenced the outcome of the 2016 American Presidential Election.[151][152] Fake news saw higher sharing on Facebook than legitimate news stories,[153][154][155] which analysts explained was because fake news often panders to expectations or is otherwise more exciting than legitimate news.[156][154] Facebook itself initially denied this characterization.[145][157] A Pew Research poll conducted in December 2016 found that 64% of U.S. adults believed completely made-up news had caused "a great deal of confusion" about the basic facts of current events, while 24% claimed it had caused "some confusion" and 11% said it had caused "not much or no confusion".[158] Additionally, 23% of those polled admitted they had personally shared fake news, whether knowingly or not. Researchers from Stanford assessed that only 8% of readers of fake news recalled and believed in the content they were reading, though the same share of readers also recalled and believed in "placebos" – stories they did not actually read, but that were produced by the authors of the study. In comparison, over 50% of the participants recalled reading and believed in true news stories.[25]

By August 2017 Facebook stopped using the term "fake news" and used "false news" in its place instead. Will Oremus of Slate wrote that because supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump had redefined the word "fake news" to refer to mainstream media opposed to them, "it makes sense for Facebook—and others—to cede the term to the right-wing trolls who have claimed it as their own."[159]

Research from Northwestern University concluded that 30% of all fake news traffic, as opposed to only 8% of real news traffic, could be linked back to Facebook. The research concluded fake news consumers do not exist in a filter bubble; many of them also consume real news from established news sources. The fake news audience is only 10 percent of the real news audience, and most fake news consumers spent a relatively similar amount of time on fake news compared with real news consumers—with the exception of Drudge Report readers, who spent more than 11 times longer reading the website than other users.[160]

In the wake of western events, China's Ren Xianling of the Cyberspace Administration of China suggested a "reward and punish" system be implemented to avoid fake news.[161]

Internet trolls

In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or off-topic discussion, often for the troll's amusement. Internet trolls also feed on attention.[162]

The idea of internet trolls gained popularity in the 1990s, though its meaning shifted in 2011. Whereas it once denoted provocation, it is a term now widely used to signify the abuse and misuse of the Internet. Trolling comes in various forms, and can be dissected into abuse trolling, entertainment trolling, classical trolling, flame trolling, anonymous trolling, and kudos trolling. It is closely linked to fake news, as internet trolls are now largely interpreted as perpetrators of false information, information that can often be passed along unwittingly by reporters and the public alike.[163][164]

When interacting with each other, trolls often share misleading information that contributes to the fake news circulated on sites like Twitter and Facebook.[165] In the 2016 American election, Russia paid over 1,000 internet trolls to circulate fake news and disinformation about Hillary Clinton; they also created social media accounts that resembled voters in important swing states, spreading influential political standpoints.[166] In February 2019, Glenn Greenwald wrote that a cybersecurity company New Knowledge "was caught just six weeks ago engaging in a massive scam to create fictitious Russian troll accounts on Facebook and Twitter in order to claim that the Kremlin was working to defeat Democratic Senate nominee Doug Jones in Alabama."[167]


During the 2016 United States presidential election, the creation and coverage of fake news increased substantially.[168] This resulted in a widespread response to combat the spread of fake news.[169][170][171][172] The volume and reluctance of fake news websites to respond to fact-checking organizations has posed a problem to inhibiting the spread of fake news through fact checking alone.[173] In an effort to reduce the effects of fake news, fact-checking websites, including Snopes.com and FactCheck.org, have posted guides to spotting and avoiding fake news websites.[170][174] New critical readings of media events and news with an emphasis on literalism and logic have also emerged.[175] Social media sites and search engines, such as Facebook and Google, received criticism for facilitating the spread of fake news. Both of these corporations have taken measures to explicitly prevent the spread of fake news; critics, however, believe more action is needed.[172]

After the 2016 American election and the run-up to the German election, Facebook began labeling and warning of inaccurate news[176][177] and partnered with independent fact-checkers to label inaccurate news, warning readers before sharing it.[176][177] After a story is flagged as disputed, it will be reviewed by the third-party fact-checkers. Then, if it has been proven to be a fake news story, the post cannot be turned into an ad or promoted.[178] Artificial intelligence is one of the more recent technologies being developed in the United States and Europe to recognize and eliminate fake news through algorithms.[171] In 2017, Facebook targeted 30,000 accounts related to the spread of misinformation regarding the French presidential election.[179]

In March 2018, Google launched Google News Initiative (GNI) to fight the spread of fake news. It launched GNI under the belief that quality journalism and identifying truth online is crucial. GNI has three goals: “to elevate and strengthen quality journalism, evolve business models to drive sustainable growth and empower news organizations through technological innovation.”[180] To achieve the first goal, Google created the Disinfo Lab, which combats the spread of fake news during crucial times such as elections or breaking news. The company is also working to adjust its systems to display more trustworthy content during times of breaking news. To make it easier for users to subscribe to media publishers, Google created Subscribe with Google. Additionally, they have created a dashboard, News Consumer Insights that allows news organizations to better understand their audiences using data and analytics. Google will spend $300 million through 2021 on these efforts, among others, to combat fake news.[180]

Usage of the term by Jair Bolsonaro

President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro has claimed that he will not allow his government to use any of its 1.8 billion reais (US$487 million) media budget on purchases from fake news media.[181] The BBC reported that Bolsonaro's campaign declared media associating his campaign to the "extreme right" were themselves fake news.[182]

Usage of the term by Donald Trump

President Trump has claimed that the mainstream American media regularly reports fake news. His usage of the term has increased distrust of the American media globally, particularly in Russia. His claims have given credibility to the stories in the Russian media that label American news, especially news about atrocities committed by the Syrian regime against its own people, where it was quoted that "munitions at the air base had as much to do with chemical weapons as the test tube in the hands of Colin Powell had to do with weapons of mass destruction in Iraq", as just more fake American news.[183]

Trump has carried on a war against the mainstream media, often attacking it as "fake news" and the "enemy of the people."[184][185][186][187][188]

According to Jeff Hemsley, a Syracuse University professor who studies social media, Trump uses this term for any news that is not favorable to him or which he simply dislikes.[189] Trump provided a widely cited[190][19][191][192] example of this interpretation in a tweet on May 9, 2018:

Donald J. Trump Twitter

The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?

May 9, 2018[193]

Chris Cillizza described the tweet on CNN as an "accidental" revelation about Trump's "'fake news' attacks", and wrote: "The point can be summed up in these two words from Trump: 'negative (Fake).' To Trump, those words mean the same thing. Negative news coverage is fake news. Fake news is negative news coverage."[190] Other writers made similar comments about the tweet. Dara Lind wrote in Vox: "It's nice of Trump to admit, explicitly, what many skeptics have suspected all along: When he complains about 'fake news,' he doesn't actually mean 'news that is untrue'; he means news that is personally inconvenient to Donald Trump."[19] Jonathan Chait wrote in New York magazine: "Trump admits he calls all negative news 'fake'.": "In a tweet this morning, Trump casually opened a window into the source code for his method of identifying liberal media bias. Anything that's negative is, by definition, fake."[191] Philip Bump wrote in The Washington Post: "The important thing in that tweet....is that he makes explicit his view of what constitutes fake news. It's negative news. Negative. (Fake.)"[192] In an interview with Lesley Stahl, before the cameras were turned on, Trump explained why he attacks the press: "You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you."[194]

Author and literary critic Michiko Kakutani has described developments in the right-wing media and websites:

"FOX News and the planetary system of right-wing news sites that would orbit it and, later, Breitbart, were particularly adept at weaponizing such arguments and exploiting the increasingly partisan fervor animating the Republican base: They accused the media establishment of “liberal bias,” and substituted their own right-wing views as “fair and balanced” – a redefinition of terms that was a harbinger of Trump’s hijacking of “fake news” to refer not to alt-right conspiracy theories and Russian troll posts, but to real news that he perceived as inconvenient or a threat to himself."[195]

In September 2018, National Public Radio noted that Trump has expanded his use of the terms "fake" and "phony" to "an increasingly wide variety of things he doesn't like": "The range of things Trump is declaring fake is growing too. Last month he tweeted about "fake books," "the fake dossier," "fake CNN," and he added a new claim – that Google search results are "RIGGED" to mostly show only negative stories about him." They graphed his expanding use in columns labeled: "Fake news", "Fake (other) and "Phony".[196]

Criticism of the term

Because of the manner in which Trump has co-opted the term, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan has warned fellow journalists that "It's time to retire the tainted term 'fake news'. Though the term hasn't been around long, its meaning already is lost."[189] By late 2018, the term "fake news" had become verboten and U.S. journalists, including the Poynter Institute were asking for apologies and for product retirements from companies using the term.[197][198][199]

In October 2018, the British government decided that the term "fake news" will no longer be used in official documents because it is "a poorly-defined and misleading term that conflates a variety of false information, from genuine error through to foreign interference in democratic processes." This followed a recommendation by the House of Commons' Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to avoid the term.[21]

By country


A well-known case of fabricated news in Australia happened in 2009 when a report Deception Detection Across Australian Populations of a "Levitt Institute" was widely cited on news websites across the country, claiming that Sydney was the most naive city, despite the fact that the report itself contained a clue: amidst the mathematical gibberish, there was a statement: "These results were completely made up to be fictitious material through a process of modified truth and credibility nodes."[200] The Australian Parliament initiated investigation into "fake news" regarding issues surrounding fake news that occurred during the 2016 United States election. The inquiry looked at several major areas in Australia to find audiences most vulnerable to fake news, by considering the impact on traditional journalism, and by evaluating the liability of online advertisers and by regulating the spreading the hoaxes. This act of parliament is meant to combat the threat of social media power on spreading fake news as concluded negative results to the public.[201]


Politicians in Austria dealt with the impact of fake news and its spread on social media after the 2016 presidential campaign in the country. In December 2016, a court in Austria issued an injunction on Facebook Europe, mandating it block negative postings related to Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, Austrian Green Party Chairwoman. According to The Washington Post the postings to Facebook about her "appeared to have been spread via a fake profile" and directed derogatory epithets towards the Austrian politician.[202] The derogatory postings were likely created by the identical fake profile that had previously been utilized to attack Alexander van der Bellen, who won the election for President of Austria.[202]


In 2006, French-speaking broadcaster RTBF showed a fictional breaking special news report that Belgium's Flemish Region had proclaimed independence. Staged footage of the royal family evacuating and the Belgian flag being lowered from a pole were made to add credence to the report. It wasn't until 30 minutes into the report that a sign stating "Fiction" appeared on screen. The RTBF journalist that created the hoax said the purpose was to demonstrate the magnitude of the country's situation and if a partition of Belgium was to really happen.[203]


Brazil faced increasing influence from fake news after the 2014 re-election of President Dilma Rousseff and Rousseff's subsequent impeachment in August 2016. BBC Brazil reported in April 2016 that in the week surrounding one of the impeachment votes, three out of the five most-shared articles on Facebook in Brazil were fake. In 2015, reporter Tai Nalon resigned from her position at Brazilian newspaper Folha de S Paulo in order to start the first fact-checking website in Brazil, called Aos Fatos (To The Facts). Nalon told The Guardian there was a great deal of fake news, and hesitated to compare the problem to that experienced in the U.S.[204] In fact, Brazil also have problems with fake news and according to a survey have a greater number of people that believe fake news influenced the outcome of their elections (69%) than the United States (47%).[136]

In the wake of the uptick in Amazon fires of 2019, it became clear that many of the forest fire photos that went viral were fake news.[205][206] Emmanuel Macron, president of France, tweeted picture taken by a photographer who died in 2003, for example.[207][208][206][209]


Fake news online was brought to the attention of Canadian politicians in November 2016, as they debated helping assist local newspapers. Member of Parliament for Vancouver Centre Hedy Fry specifically discussed fake news as an example of ways in which publishers on the Internet are less accountable than print media. Discussion in parliament contrasted increase of fake news online with downsizing of Canadian newspapers and the impact for democracy in Canada. Representatives from Facebook Canada attended the meeting and told members of Parliament they felt it was their duty to assist individuals gather data online.[210]

In January 2017, the Conservative leadership campaign of Kellie Leitch admitted to spreading fake news, including false claims that Justin Trudeau was financing Hamas. The campaign manager claimed he spread the news in order to provoke negative reactions so that he could determine those who "aren't real Conservatives".[211]


Fake news during the 2016 U.S. election spread to China. Articles popularized within the United States were translated into Chinese and spread within China.[204] The government of China used the growing problem of fake news as a rationale for increasing Internet censorship in China in November 2016.[212] China then published an editorial in its Communist Party newspaper The Global Times called: "Western Media's Crusade Against Facebook", and criticized "unpredictable" political problems posed by freedoms enjoyed by users of Twitter, Google, and Facebook. China government leaders meeting in Wuzhen at the third World Internet Conference in November 2016 said fake news in the U.S. election justified adding more curbs to free and open use of the Internet. China Deputy Minister Ren Xianliang, official at the Cyberspace Administration of China, said increasing online participation led to "harmful information" and fraud.[213] Kam Chow Wong, a former Hong Kong law enforcement official and criminal justice professor at Xavier University, praised attempts in the U.S. to patrol social media.[214] The Wall Street Journal noted China's themes of Internet censorship became more relevant at the World Internet Conference due to the outgrowth of fake news.[215]

The issue of fake news in the 2016 United States election has given the Chinese Government a reason to further criticize Western democracy and press freedom. The Chinese government has also accused Western media organisations of bias, in a move apparently inspired by President Trump.[216]

In March 2017, the People's Daily, a newspaper run by the ruling Communist Party of China, denounced news coverage of the torture of Chinese lawyer and human rights advocate Xie Yang, claiming it to be fake news.[216] The newspaper published a Twitter post declaring that "Foreign media reports that police tortured a detained lawyer is FAKE NEWS, fabricated to tarnish China's image". The state-owned Xinhua News Agency claimed that "the stories were essentially fake news". The Chinese government has often accused Western news organizations of being biased and dishonest.[217]

The Chinese government also claimed that there are people who pose as journalists that spread negative information on social media in order to extort payment from their victims to stop doing so. David Bandurski of University of Hong Kong's China Media Project has said that this issue has continued to worsen.[218]

Taiwan's leaders, including President Tsai Ing-wen and Premier William Lai, have accused China's troll army of spreading "fake news" via social media to support candidates more sympathetic to Beijing ahead of the 2018 Taiwanese local elections.[219][220][221]


In the fall of 2016, Whatsapp spread fake news that impacted votes critical to Colombian history.[222] One of the lies spreading rapidly through WhatsApp was that Colombian citizens would receive less pension so former guerrilla fighters would get money.[222] The misinformation initially began in a question to whether Whatsapp users approved of the peace accord deal between the national government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) or did not. The peace accord would end 5 decades of war between paramilitary groups (rebel forces) and the Colombian government that resulted in millions of deaths and displaced citizens throughout the country. A powerful influence of votes was the "no" campaign, the "no" campaign was to convince citizens of Colombia to not accept the peace accord because it would be letting the rebel group off "too easily."[223] Uribe, former president of Colombia and of the democratico party, led the "no" campaign. Santos, president in 2016 took liberal approaches during his presidency. Santos won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 because of his efforts towards a peace accord with rebel forces.[224] In addition, Uribe naturally had opposing views than of Santos.[224][222] Furthermore, other news spread through whatsapp were easily misinterpreted by the public, including that Santo's scheme was to turn Colombia under harsh rule like Cuba and chaos like Venezuela (under Hugo Chavez), though the logistics were never explained.[222] In an interview of Juan Carlos Vélez, the "no" campaign manager, he says their strategy was that "We discovered the viral power of social networks." [222] In addition, the yes campaign also took part in spreading fake news through whatsapp. For instance, a photoshopped image of a democratico senator Everth Bustamante spread about of him holding a sign reading "I don't want guirrellas in congress" to show hypocrisy. This would be seen as hypocritical because he was a former left wing M-19 guierrilla.[222] The "no" campaign strongly influenced votes throughout Colombia, Yes votes strong in areas with highest number of victims and no votes in areas influenced by Uribe. In result, there were 50.2 percent of no votes compared to 49.8 percent of yes votes.[223] The result of the fake news throughout Whatsapp included changes within WhatsApp by Journalist, Juanita Leon, who invented the Whatsapp "lie detector" in January 2017 to fight fake news within the app.[222] Although the accord was eventually signed, the WhatsApp incident further prolonged the accord and brought controversial views among citizens.

Czech Republic

Fake news outlets in the Czech Republic redistribute news in Czech and English originally produced by Russian sources. Czech president Miloš Zeman has been supporting media outlets accused of spreading fake news.[225]

The Centre Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats (CTHH) is unit of the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic primarily aimed at countering disinformation, fake news, hoaxes and foreign propaganda. The CTHH started operations on January 1, 2017. The CTHH has been criticized by Czech President Miloš Zeman, who said: "We don't need censorship. We don't need thought police. We don't need a new agency for press and information as long as we want to live in a free and democratic society."[226]

In 2017 media activists started a website Konspiratori.cz maintaining a list of conspiracy and fake news outlets in Czech.[227]


Officials from 11 countries met in Helsinki in November 2016 and planned the formation of a center to combat disinformation cyber-warfare, which includes the spread of fake news on social media. The center is planned to be located in Helsinki and combine efforts from 10 countries, including Sweden, Germany, Finland and the U.S. Prime Minister of Finland Juha Sipilä planned to address the topic of the center in Spring 2017 with a motion before Parliament.

Deputy Secretary of State for EU Affairs Jori Arvonen said cyber-warfare, such as hybrid cyber-warfare intrusions into Finland from Russia and the Islamic State, became an increased problem in 2016. Arvonen cited examples including online fake news, disinformation, and the little green men troops of the Ukrainian crisis.[228]


During the 10-year period preceding 2016, France was witness to an increase in popularity of far-right alternative news sources called the fachosphere ("facho" referring to fascist); known as the extreme right on the Internet.[204] According to sociologist Antoine Bevort, citing data from Alexa Internet rankings, the most consulted political websites in France in 2016 included Égalité et Réconciliation, François Desouche, and Les Moutons Enragés.[229][230] These sites increased skepticism towards mainstream media from both left and right perspectives.

In September 2016, the country faced controversy regarding fake websites providing false information about abortion. The National Assembly moved forward with intentions to ban such fake sites. Laurence Rossignol, women's minister for France, informed parliament though the fake sites look neutral, in actuality their intentions were specifically targeted to give women fake information.

2017 presidential election

France saw an uptick in amounts of disinformation and propaganda, primarily in the midst of election cycles. A study looking at the diffusion of political news during the 2017 presidential election cycle suggests that one in four links shared in social media comes from sources that actively contest traditional media narratives.[231] Facebook corporate deleted 30,000 Facebook accounts in France associated with fake political information.[232]

In April 2017, Emmanuel Macron's presidential campaign was attacked by the fake news articles more than the campaigns of conservative candidate Marine Le Pen and socialist candidate .[233] One of the fake articles even announced that Marine Le Pen won the presidency before the people of France had even voted.[232] Macron's professional and private emails, as well as memos, contracts and accounting documents were posted on a file sharing website. The leaked documents were mixed with fake ones in social media in an attempt to sway the upcoming presidential election.[234] Macron said he would combat fake news of the sort that had been spread during his election campaign.[235]

Initially, the leak was attributed to APT28, a group tied to Russias GRU military intelligence directorate.[236] However, the head of the French cyber-security agency, ANSSI, later said that there was no evidence that the hack leading to the leaks had anything to do with Russia, saying that the attack was so simple, that "we can imagine that it was a person who did this alone. They could be in any country."[237]


German Chancellor Angela Merkel lamented the problem of fraudulent news reports in a November 2016 speech, days after announcing her campaign for a fourth term as leader of her country. In a speech to the German parliament, Merkel was critical of such fake sites, saying they harmed political discussion. Merkel called attention to the need of government to deal with Internet trolls, bots, and fake news websites. She warned that such fraudulent news websites were a force increasing the power of populist extremism. Merkel called fraudulent news a growing phenomenon that might need to be regulated in the future. Germany's foreign intelligence agency Federal Intelligence Service Chief, Bruno Kahl, warned of the potential for cyberattacks by Russia in the 2017 German election. He said the cyberattacks would take the form of the intentional spread of disinformation. Kahl said the goal is to increase chaos in political debates. Germany's domestic intelligence agency Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution Chief, Hans-Georg Maassen, said sabotage by Russian intelligence was a present threat to German information security.[238] German government officials and security experts later said there was no Russian interference during the 2017 German federal election.[239] The German term Lügenpresse, or lying press, has been used since the 19th century and specifically during World War One as a strategy to attack news spread by political opponents from the 19th and 20th century.[240]

The award-winning German journalist Claas Relotius resigned from Der Spiegel in 2018 after admitting numerous instances of journalistic fraud.[241]

Hong Kong

During the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests, the Chinese government has been accused for using fake news to spread misinformation regarding the protests. It includes describing protests as "riots", and "radicals" seeking independence for the city. Due to the online censorship in China, citizens inside mainland China could not read news reports from some media outlets.[242][243] It was also found by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube that misinformation was spread with fake accounts and advertisements by state-backed media. Large amount of accounts were suspended.[244]

Dot Dot News, a pro-Beijing online media located in Hong Kong, has been banned by Facebook given it has been distributing fake news and hate speech.[245][246]


Fake news in India has led to episodes of violence between castes and religions, interfering with public policies. It often spreads through the smartphone instant messenger WhatsApp,[247] which had 200 million monthly active users in the country as of February 2017.[248]

On November 8, 2016, India established a 2,000-rupee currency bill on the same day as the Indian 500 and 1,000 rupee note demonetisation. Fake news went viral over WhatsApp that the note came equipped with spying technology that tracked bills 120 meters below the earth. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley refuted the falsities, but not before they had spread to the country's mainstream news outlets.[249] Later, in May 2017, seven people were lynched as rumor of child abductions spread through WhatsApp in a village.[247]

Prabhakar Kumar of the Indian media research agency CMS, told The Guardian that India was hit harder by fake news because the country lacked media policy for verification. Law enforcement officers in India arrested individuals with charges of creating fictitious articles, predominantly if there was likelihood the articles inflamed societal conflict.

There have been multiple instances of pictures from Syrian and Iraqi civil war being passed off as to be from Kashmir conflict to fuel unrest to back insurgencies.[250][251][252]

In April 2018, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry said the government would cancel the accreditation of journalists found to be sharing fake news, but this was quickly retracted after criticism that this was an attack on freedom of the press.[253]

In June 2018, mobs murdered a governmental employee, Sukanta Chakraborty, who was fighting against false news and rumours, and two other unrelated people. More people were severely injured. The local government temporarily shut down mobile Internet and texting services.[254]

Indian ministry of information and broadcasting in November 2019, planned to set up a FACT checking module to counter the circulation of fake news by continuous monitoring of online news sources and publicly visible social media posts. Module will work on the four principles of Find, Assess, Create and Target (FACT) and will initially be ran by information service officers.[255]


Recently, Indonesia has seen an increase in the amount of fake news circulating social media. The problem first arose during their 2014 presidential election, where the eventual-winning candidate Joko Widodo became a target of a smear campaign by Prabowo Subianto's supporters which falsely claimed he was the child of Indonesian Communist Party members, of Chinese descent, and a Christian.[256] Unlike the 2016 U.S. presidential election, where the sharing of fake news resulted in increased social-media engagement than real news, inflaming ethnic and political tensions could be potentially deadly in Indonesia, with its recent incidences of domestic terrorism, and its long and bloody history of anti-communist, anti-Christian and anti-Chinese pogroms cultivated by Suharto's U.S.-backed right-wing dictatorship which ran the country for thirty-some years.[256] Suharto was also Prabowo's father in-law for the last 15 years of the regime. The government, watchdog groups, and even religious organizations have taken steps to prevent its spreading, such as blocking certain websites and creating fact-check apps. The largest Islamic mass organization in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama, has created an anti-fake news campaign called #TurnBackHoax, while other Islamic groups have defined such propagation as tantamount to a sin.[256] While the government currently views criminal punishment as its last resort, officials are working hard to guarantee law enforcement will respect the freedom of expression.

The fake news campaign rose again in the 2019 presidential election, which involved the same sides competing last time out. For years, most fake news circulated in Indonesia are related to alleged Chinese imperialism (including Sinicization), communization, and Christianization. It was made worse by the 2016–17 Jakarta protests led by Islamic fundamentalist groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) which successfully imprisoned Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who happens to be a Chinese-Christian.

Israel/Palestinian Territories

In 1996, people had been killed in the Western Wall Tunnel riots in reaction to fake news accounts.[257] An Egyptian newspaper reported on Israeli spy sharks trained to eat Arab bathers in the Red Sea, an example of an Israel-related animal conspiracy theory.[258] The Israeli state has been accused of spreading propaganda in the USA.[259] In April 2018, Palestinian-Israeli football team Bnei Sakhnin threatened to sue Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for libel, after he claimed fans booed during a minute of silence for Israeli flash-flood victims.

In a social media post, Netanyahu blasted various Israeli news critical of him, as fake news including Channel 2, Channel 10, Haaretz and Ynet the same day US President Trump decried "fake news".

The Palestinian Islamist political organization, Hamas published a political program in 2017 intended to ease its position on Israel. Among other things, this charter accepted the borders of the Palestinian state circa the Six-Day War of 1967.[260] Although this document is an advancement from their previous 1988 charter, which called for the destruction of the State of ‘’’Israel’’’, it still does not recognize Israel as legitimate independent nation.[260] In a video, Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the coverage of this event by news outlets such as Al Jazeera, CNN, New York Times and The Guardian, calling their reporting fake news.[261] He specifically disagreed with the notion that Hamas had accepted the state of Israel within their new charter, and called this "a complete distortion of the truth.” Instead he said, “The new Hamas document says Israel has no right to exist.” In a later speech, addressed to his supporters, Netanyahu responded to allegations against him: “The fake news industry is at its peak... Look, for example, how they cover with unlimited enthusiasm, every week, the left-wing demonstration. The same demonstrations whose goal is to apply improper pressure on law enforcement authorities so they will file an indictment at any price.” Observers likened his blanketed use of the term, ‘fake news’, for describing left-wing media to Donald Trump, and his similar statements during the 2016 election cycle.[262]

In a most recent studies conducted by Yifat Media Check Ltd. and Hamashrokit (“The Whistle” fact-checking NGO), they found that over 70% of statements made by Israeli political leaders were not accurate.[263]


In April 2018, Malaysia implemented the Anti-Fake News Bill 2018, a controversial law that deemed publishing and circulating misleading information as a crime punishable by up to six years in prison and/or fines of up to 500,000 ringgit.[264] At implementation, the country's prime minister was Najib Razak, whose associates were connected to the mishandling of at least $3.5 billion by a United States Department of Justice report.[265][264] Of that sum of money, $731 million was deposited into bank accounts controlled by Razak.[264][265] The convergence between the fake news law and Razak's connection to scandal was made clear by the Malaysian minister of communications and multimedia, Salleh Said Keruak, who said that tying Razak to a specific dollar amount could be a prosecutable offense.[266] In the 2018 Malaysian general election, Najib Razak lost his seat as prime minister to Mahatir Mohammad, who vowed to abolish the fake news law in his campaign, as the law was used to target him.[267][268] After winning the election, the newly elected prime minister Mohammad has said, “Even though we support freedom of press and freedom of speech, there are limits."[267][268] As of May 2018, Mohammad has supported amending the law, rather than a full abolition.[268]

Paul Bernal, a lecturer in information and technology, fears that the fake news epidemic is a “Trojan horse” for countries like Malaysia to “control uncomfortable stories.” [269] The vagueness of this law means that satirists, opinion writers, and journalists who make errors could face persecution. The law also makes it illegal to share fake news stories. In one instance, a Danish man and Malaysian citizen were arrested for posting false news stories online and were sentenced to serve a month in jail.[270]



In 2015, BBC News reported on fake stories, using unrelated photographs and fraudulent captions, shared online in support of the Rohingya.[271] Fake news negatively affected individuals in Myanmar, leading to a rise in violence against Muslims in the country. Online participation surged from one percent to 20 percent of Myanmar's total populace from 2014 to 2016. Fake stories from Facebook were reprinted in paper periodicals called Facebook and The Internet. False reporting related to practitioners of Islam in the country was directly correlated with increased attacks on Muslims in Myanmar. BuzzFeed journalist Sheera Frenkel reported fake news fictitiously stated believers in Islam acted out in violence at Buddhist locations. She documented a direct relationship between the fake news and violence against Muslim people. Frenkel noted countries that were relatively newer to Internet exposure were more vulnerable to the problems of fake news and fraud.


In March 2018, the European Union’s East StratCom Team compiled a list dubbed a “hall of shame” of articles with suspected Kremlin attempts to influence political decisions.[272] However, controversy arose when three Dutch media outlets claimed they had been wrongfully singled out because of quotes attributed to people with non-mainstream views.[272] The news outlets included [1]Post Online, GeenStijl, and De Gelderlander.[272] All three were flagged for publishing articles critical of Ukrainian policies, and none received any forewarning or opportunity to appeal beforehand.[272] This incident has contributed to the growing issue of what defines news as fake, and how freedoms of press and speech can be protected during attempts to curb to spread of false news.


Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the Minister of Defence of Pakistan, threatened to nuke Israel on Twitter after a false story claiming that Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Ministry of Defense, said "If Pakistan send ground troops into Syria on any pretext, we will destroy this country with a nuclear attack."[273][274]


Fake news has been problematic in the Philippines where social media has played a much greater role in political influence. Following the 2016 Philippine election, Senator Francis Pangilinan filed that there be an inquiry of conduct of social media platforms that allowed for the spreading of fake news.[275] Pangilinan called for penalties for social media platforms that provided the public with false information about his ideas. The news that came out was meant to discredit the opposing party and used social media as an outlet to bring propaganda into the mainstream media.[276] According to media analysts, developing countries such as the Philippines, with the generally new access to social media and democracy, feel the problem of fake news to a larger extent.[277] Facebook is one of the largest platforms being an open website, that works as a booster to sway the opinion of the public due to manufactured stories. While Facebook provides free media sources, it does not provide its users with the access to fact checking websites.[278] Because of this, government authorities call for a tool that will filter out "fake news" to secure the integrity of cyberspace in the Philippines.[275] Rappler, a social news network in the Philippines, investigated online networks of Rodrigo Duterte supporters and discovered that they include fake news, fake accounts, bots and trolls, which Rappler thinks are being used to silence dissent. The creation of fake news, and fake news accounts on social media has been a danger to the political health of the country. According to Kate Lamble and Megha Mohan of BBC news, "What we're seeing on social media again is manufactured reality... They also create a very real chilling effect against normal people, against journalists (who) are the first targets, and they attack in very personal ways with death threats and rape threats." Journalists are often risking their lives in publishing articles that contest fake news in the Philippines.[279]

The 2016 Filipino election was influenced, in large part, by false information propagated by fake news outlets. By New York Times contributor Miguel Syjuco's account, President Rodrigo Duterte benefited from a disproportionate amount of complimentary fake news compared to his opponents. The pro-Duterte propaganda spread across Filipino social media include fake endorsements from prominent public figures like Pope Francis and Angela Merkel.[280] Duterte's own campaign was responsible for a portion of the misinformation spread during the election; according to a study from Oxford University's Computational Propaganda Research Program, Duterte's campaign paid an estimated $200,000 for dedicated trolls to undermine dissenters and disseminate misinformation in 2016.[281]

An incident was the accusation made by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II regarding 2017 Marawi Crisis in which he tagged various opposition senators and other people as masterminds of the attack based on a photo shared through social media and other blog sites which produces fake news.[282] Another government official, Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux "Mocha" Uson has been accused of spreading fake news.[283][284]

The prevalence of fake news in the Philippines have pushed lawmakers to file laws to combat it, like criminalizing its dissemination.[285][286] The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines strongly opposes the spread of fake news as a sin, and published a list of fake news websites.[287][288]


Polish historian Jerzy Targalski noted fake news websites had infiltrated Poland through anti-establishment and right-wing sources that copied content from Russia Today. Targalski observed there existed about 20 specific fake news websites in Poland that spread Russian disinformation in the form of fake news. One example cited was fake news that Ukraine announced the Polish city of Przemyśl as occupied Polish land.[289]

Poland's anti-EU Law and Justice (PiS) government has been accused of spreading "illiberal disinformation" to undermine public confidence in the European Union.[290] Maria Snegovaya of Columbia University said: "The true origins of this phenomenon are local. The policies of Fidesz and Law and Justice have a lot in common with Putin's own policies."[290]

Some mainstream outlets were long accused of fabricating half-true or outright false information. One of popular TV stations, TVN, in 2010 attributed to Jarosław Kaczyński (then an opposition leader) words that "there will be times, when true Poles will come to the power".[291] However, Kaczyński has never uttered those words in the commented speech.


In March 2019, Russia passed a new bill to ban websites from spreading false information.[292] In addition to tackling fake news, the new legislation specifically punishes any sources or websites for publishing materials that insult the state, the symbol of the government or other political figures.[293] For repeated offenders, they would receive a 15-day jail sentence.

Saudi Arabia

According to the Global News, Saudi Arabia's state-owned television spread fake news about Canada. In August 2018, Canada's Global News reported that state-owned television Al Arabiya, "has suggested that Canada is the worst country in the world for women, that it has the highest suicide rate and that it treats its Indigenous people the way Myanmar treats the Rohingya – a Muslim minority massacred and driven out of Myanmar en masse last year."[294]

In October 2018, Twitter has suspended a number of bot accounts that appeared to be spreading pro-Saudi rhetoric about the disappearance of Saudi opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi.[295][296]

According to Newsweek, Saudi Arabia's Office of Public Prosecution tweeted that "producing rumors or fake news [that Saudi Arabia's government was involved in the disappearance of Khashoggi] that would affect the public order or public security or sending or resending it via social media or any technical means" is punishable "by five years and a fine of 3 million riyals".[297]

Iranian-backed Twitter accounts spread sensational fake news and rumours about Saudi Arabia.[298]

On August 1, 2019, Facebook identified hundreds of accounts that were running a covert network on behalf of government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to spread fake news and attack regional rivals. The social media giant removed more than 350 accounts, pages and groups with nearly 1.4 million followers.[299] Along with Facebook, these accounts were involved in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on Instagram as well. According to a FB blog post, the network was running two different political agendas, one on behalf of Saudi Arabia and the other for the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.[300]


In 2018, International Research & Exchanges Board described the situation in the media in Serbia as the worst in recent history, and that Media Sustainability Index dropped because the most polarized media in almost 20 years, an increase in fake news and editorial pressure on media.[301] According to Serbian investigative journalism portal Crime and Corruption Reporting Network, more than 700 fake news were published on the front pages of pro-government tabloids during 2018.[302][303] Many of them were about alleged attacks on the president Aleksandar Vučić and attempts of coups, as well as messages of support to him by Vladimir Putin.[303] The best-selling newspaper in Serbia is the pro-government tabloid Informer, which most often presents Vučić as a powerful person under constant attack, and also has anti-European content and pro-war rhetoric.[304][305][306] Since Vučić's party came to power, Serbia has seen a surge of internet trolls and pages on social networks praising the government and attacking its critics, free media and the opposition in general.[307] That includes a handful of dedicated employees run fake accounts, but also the Facebook page associated with a Serbian franchise of the far-right Breitbart News website, which has a disputed accuracy.[308][307]


Singapore criminalizes the propagation of fake news. Under existing law, "Any person who transmits or causes to be transmitted a message which he knows to be false or fabricated shall be guilty of an offense".[309]

On 18 March 2015, a doctored screenshot of Prime Minister's Office website claiming the demise of the Lee Kuan Yew went viral, and several international news agencies such as CNN and China Central Television initially reported it as news, until corrected by the Prime Minister's Office. The image was created by a student to demonstrate to his classmates how fake news could be easily created and propagated.[310] In 2017, Singaporean news website Mothership.sg was criticized by the Ministry of Education (MOE) for propagating remarks falsely attributed to a MOE official.[311] In addition, Minister of Law K Shanmugam also singled out online news website The States Times Review as an example of a source of fake news, as it once claimed a near-zero turnout at the state funeral of President S. R. Nathan.[312]

Following these incidents, Shanmugam stated that the existing legalization is limited and ineffective[313] and indicated that the government intends to introduce legislation to combat fake news in 2018.[314] In 2017, the Ministry of Communications and Information set up Factually, a website intended to debunk false rumors regarding issues of public interest such as the environment, housing and transport,[315] while in 2018, the Parliament of Singapore formed a Select Committee to consider new legislation to tackle fake news.[316]

Furthermore, the Singapore government has introduced draft legislation with regards to Fake News in April 2019, which is called the Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill.[317] This legislation is intended to regulate websites that spread misinformation, and combat fake news. In addition, this bill is supported by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s People’s Action Party, which has a super majority in Parliament.[318] However, critics also point out that this bill could introduce government’s self censorship and increase government’s control over social media.[319]

Activist platform The Online Citizen regarded legislation against fake news as an attempt by the government to curb the free flow of information so that only information approved by the government is disseminated to the public.[320] In an online essay, activist and historian Thum Ping Tjin denied that fake news was a problem in Singapore, and accused the People's Action Party government as the only major source of fake news, claiming that detentions made without trial during Operation Coldstore and Operation Spectrum were based on fake news for party political gain.[321]

Facebook and Google have opposed the introduction of new laws to combat fake news, claiming that existing legislation is adequate to address the problem and that an effective way of combating misinformation is through educating citizens on how to distinguish reliable from unreliable information.[322]

South Africa

A wide range of South African media sources have reported fake news as a growing problem and tool to both increase distrust in the media, discredit political opponents, and divert attention from corruption.[323] Media outlets owned by the Gupta family have been noted by other South African media organisations such as The Huffington Post (South Africa), Sunday Times, Radio 702, and City Press for targeting them.[324] Individuals targeted include Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan who was seen as blocking Gupta attempts at state capture with accusations levelled against Gordhan of promoting state capture for "white monopoly capital".[325][326]

The African National Congress (ANC) was taken to court by Sihle Bolani for unpaid work she did during the election on the ANC's behalf. In court papers Bolani stated that the ANC used her to launch and run a covert R50 million fake news and disinformation campaign during the 2016 municipal elections with the intention of discrediting opposition parties.[327][328][329]

South Korea

South Korean journalists and media experts lament political hostility between South and North Korea which distorts Media coverage of North Korea[330] and North Korea has attributed erroneous reporting to South Korea and United States with being critical to media organization Chosun Ilbo[331] while also American journalist Barbara Demick had made similar criticisms on media coverage of North.[331]

On November 27, 2018, prosecutors raided the house of Gyeonggi Province governor Lee Jae-myung amid suspicions that his wife used a pseudonymous Twitter handle to spread fake news about President Moon Jae-in and other political rivals of her husband.[332][333]


Fake news in Spain has become much more prevalent in the 2010s, but has been prominent throughout Spain's history. The United States government published a fake article in regards to the purchase of the Philippines from Spain, which they had already purchased.[334] Despite this, the topic of fake news has traditionally not been given much attention to in Spain, until the newspaper El País launched the new blog dedicated strictly to truthful news entitled "Hechos"; which literally translates to "fact" in Spanish. David Alandete, the managing editor of El País, stated how many people misinterpret fake news as real because the sites "have similar names, typography, layouts and are deliberately confusing" (Southern).[335] Alandete made it the new mission of El País "to respond to fake news" (Scott).[336] María Ramírez of Univision Communications has stated that much of the political fake news circulating in Spain is due to the lack of investigative journalism on the topics. Most recently El País has created a fact-checking position for five employees, to try and debunk the fake news released.[335]


The Swedish Security Service issued a report in 2015 identifying propaganda from Russia infiltrating Sweden with the objective to amplify pro-Russian propaganda and inflame societal conflicts. The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), part of the Ministry of Defence of Sweden, identified fake news reports targeting Sweden in 2016 that originated from Russia. Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency official Mikael Tofvesson stated a pattern emerged where views critical of Sweden were constantly repeated. The Local identified these tactics as a form of psychological warfare. The newspaper reported the MSB identified Russia Today and Sputnik News as significant fake news purveyors. As a result of growth in this propaganda in Sweden, the MSB planned to hire six additional security officials to fight back against the campaign of fraudulent information.[337]

According to the Oxford Internet Institute, eight of the top 10 “junk news” sources during the 2018 Swedish general election campaign were Swedish, and “Russian sources comprised less than 1% of the total number of URLs shared in the data sample.”[338]


In February 2017, Amnesty International reported that up to 13,000 people had been hanged in a Syrian prison as part of an “extermination” campaign. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad questioned the credibility of Amnesty International and called the report "fake news" fabricated to undermine the government. "You can forge anything these days – we are living in a fake news era.” [339]

Russia ran a disinformation campaign during the Syrian Civil War to discredit the humanitarian rescue organisation White Helmets, and to discredit reports and images of children and other civilian bombing victims. This was done to weaken criticism of Russia's involvement in the war.[340] The United Nations and international chemical inspectors found Bashar al-Assad responsible for use of chemical weapons,[341] which was called "fake news" by Russia. Russia promoted various contradictory claims that no chemicals were present, or attributing the chemical attacks to other countries or groups.[342][343][344][345][346]


In a report in December 2015 by The China Post, a fake video shared online showed people a light show purportedly made at the Shihmen Reservoir. The Northern Region Water Resources Office confirmed there was no light show at the reservoir and the event had been fabricated. The fraud led to an increase in tourist visits to the actual attraction.

According to the news updated paper from the Time World in regards the global threat to free speech, the Taiwanese government has reformed its policy on education and it will include "media literacy" as one part of school curriculum for the students. It will be included to develop the critical thinking skills needed while using social media. Further, the work of media literacy will also include the skills needed to analyze propaganda and sources, so the student can clarify what is fake news.[347]


Since the Euromaidan and the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014, the Ukrainian media circulated several fake news stories and misleading images, including a dead rebel photograph with a Photoshop-painted tattoo which allegedly indicated that he belonged to Russian Special Forces,[348] a video game screenshot disguised as a satellite image ostensibly showing the shelling of the Ukrainian border from Russia,[349] and the threat of a Russian nuclear attack against the Ukrainian troops.[350] The recurring theme of these fake news was that Russia was solely to blame for the crisis and the war in Donbass.[350]

In 2015 the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe published a report criticizing Russian disinformation campaigns to disrupt relations between Europe and Ukraine after ouster of Viktor Yanukovych. According to Deutsche Welle, similar tactics were used by fake news websites during the US elections. A website, StopFake was created by Ukrainian activists in 2014 to debunk fake news in Ukraine, including media portrayal of the Ukrainian crisis.[351]

On May 29, 2018, the Ukrainian media and state officials announced that the Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was assassinated in his apartment in Kiev. Later, Babchenko appeared to be alive, and the Security Service of Ukraine claimed that the staged assassination was needed to arrest a person who allegedly was planning a real assassination. Alexander Baunov, writing for Carnegie.ru, mentioned that the staged assassination of Babchenko was the first instance of fake news delivered directly by the highest officials of a state.[352]

United Kingdom

On December 8, 2016, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) Alex Younger delivered a speech to journalists at the MI6 headquarters where he called fake news and propaganda damaging to democracy. Younger said the mission of MI6 was to combat propaganda and fake news in order to deliver to his government a strategic advantage in the information warfare arena, and assist other nations including Europe. He called such methods of fake news propaganda online a "fundamental threat to our sovereignty". Younger said all nations that hold democratic values should feel the same worry over fake news.[353]

However, definitions of "fake news" have been controversial in the UK, with political satire being seen as a key element of British humour.[354] Members of Parliament in the UK have been advised against using the term "when describing the complexity of information disorder", as the term "fake news" is "woefully inadequate":

Neither the words 'fake' nor 'news' effectively capture this polluted information ecosystem. Much of the content used as examples in debates on this topic are not fake, they are genuine but used out of context or manipulated. Similarly, to understand the entire ecosystem of polluted information, we need to consider far more than content that mimics 'news'.[355]

In 2017, British Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon falsely claimed that number of Russian troops taking part in Zapad 2017 exercise could reach 100,000.[356]

United States

Fake news became a global subject and was widely introduced to billions as a prominent issue, especially due to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.[4][357][358][359][360][361][362][364] Numerous political commentators and journalists wrote and stated in media that 2016 was the year of fake news and as a result nothing will ever be the same in politics and cyber security.[365] Due to the increase in fake news in 2016, it became much harder to distinguish what was real and what was fake in 2017. Donald Trump tweeted or retweeted posts about "fake news" or "fake media" 176 times as of Dec. 20, 2017, according to an online archive of all of Trump's tweets.[366] Governmental bodies in the U.S. and Europe started looking at contingencies and regulations to combat fake news specially when as part of a coordinated intelligence campaign by hostile foreign governments.[367][368] Online tech giants Facebook and Google started putting in place means to combat fake news in 2016 as a result of the phenomenon becoming globally known.[369][370] Google Trends shows that the term "fake news" gained traction in online searches in October 2016.[371]

Professor Philip N. Howard of the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford studied web traffic in the United States prior to the election. He found that about one half of all news on Twitter directed at Michigan was junk or fake, and the other half came from actual professional news sources.[111]

According to BuzzFeed, during the last three months of the presidential campaign, of the top twenty fake election-related articles on Facebook, seventeen were anti-Clinton or pro-Trump. Facebook users interacted with them more often than with stories from genuine news outlets.[87]

Debate over the impact of fake news in the election, and whether or not it significantly impacted the election of the Republican candidate Donald Trump, whom the most shared fake stories favored,[117][118] led researchers from Stanford to study the impact of fake news shared on social media, where 62% of U.S. adults get their news from. They assessed that 8% of readers of fake news recalled and believed in the content they were reading, though the same share of readers also recalled and believed in "placebos" — stories they did not actually read, but that were produced by the authors of the study. In comparison, over 50% of the participants recalled reading and believed in true news stories. The authors do not assess the final impact of these numbers on the election, but seek to "offer theoretical and empirical background" for the debate.[25]

In the United States in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, fake news was particularly prevalent and spread rapidly over social media "bots", according to researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute.[372][373] In a speech shortly after the election, former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton warned of the "real-world consequences" of fake news.[374] Shortly thereafter, in the early weeks of his presidency, U.S. president Donald Trump frequently used the term "fake news" to refer to traditional news media, singling out CNN.[375] Linguist George Lakoff says this creates confusion about the phrase's meaning.[376] According to CBS 60 Minutes, President Trump may use the term fake news to describe any news, however legitimate or responsible, with which he may disagree.[111]

After Republican Colorado state senator Ray Scott used the term as a reference to a column in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the newspaper's publisher threatened a defamation lawsuit.[377][378]

In December 2016, an armed North Carolina man, Edgar Maddison Welch, traveled to Washington, D.C., and opened fire at the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, driven by a fake online news story known as the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which accused the pizzeria of hosting a pedophile ring run by Democratic Party leaders.[379] These stories tend to go viral quickly. Social media systems, such as Facebook, play a large role in the broadcasting of fake news. These systems show users content that reflects their interests and history, leading to fake and misleading news. Following a plea agreement with prosecutors, Welch pleaded guilty to the federal charge of interstate transport of firearms and a District of Columbia charge of assault with a dangerous weapon. Welch was sentenced to four years in prison on June 22, 2017 and agreed to pay $5,744.33 for damages to the restaurant.[380]

A situation study by The New York Times shows how a tweet by a person with no more than 40 followers went viral and was shared 16,000 times on Twitter.[381] The tweet concluded that protesters were paid to be bussed to Trump demonstrations and protest. A Twitter user then posted a photograph of two buses outside a building, claiming that those were the Anti-Trump protesters. The tweet immediately went viral on both Twitter and Facebook. Fake news can easily spread due to the speed and accessibility of modern communications technology.

A CNN investigation examined exactly how fake news can start to trend.[383] There are "bots" used by fake news publishers that make their articles appear more popular than they are. This makes it more likely for people to discover them. "Bots are fake social media accounts that are programmed to automatically 'like' or retweet a particular message."[384]

An investigation by The Michigan Daily in October 2019 into statewide networks of conservative-leaning, pseudo local news sites, published by Locality Labs and the Metric Media Foundation, revealed connections between the operation and Dan Proft, the Liberty Principles PAC, and the Nexstar Media Group. Metric Media is reportedly planning on creating more sites across the nation in what critics have dubbed a disinformation campaign that may be attempting to influence 2020 elections.[385]

Fraudulent stories during the 2016 U.S. presidential election included a viral post popularized on Facebook that Pope Francis had endorsed Trump, and another that actor Denzel Washington "backs Trump in the most epic way possible".[386][387] Trump's son and campaign surrogate Eric Trump, top national security adviser Michael Flynn, and then-campaign managers Kellyanne Conway and Corey Lewandowski shared fake news stories during the campaign.[388][389][390][391]

Starting in July 2017, President Trump's 2020 presidential campaign launched Real News Update, an online news program posted on Facebook. The series reports on Trump's accomplishments as president of the United States and claims to highlight "real news" as opposed to alleged "fake news". Lara Trump introduced one video by saying "If you are tired of all the fake news out there...we are going to bring you nothing but the facts" and "I bet you haven't heard about all the accomplishments the president had this week, because there's so much fake news out there".[392] The show has been labelled as "propaganda".[393]

In January 2018, it was reported that a Gallup-Knight Foundation survey found that 17% of Democrats and 42% of Republicans "consider accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be 'fake news.'"[394] A June 2018 poll by Axios and Survey Monkey found that 72% of Americans believe "traditional news outlets knowingly report false or misleading stories at least sometimes," with 92% of Republican and Republican-leaning independents and 53% of Democrats believing this.[395]

A series of fabricated stories in Europe’s largest weekly magazine, Der Spiegel, prompted U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to call for an independent investigation.[396][397] Grenell wrote that "These fake news stories largely focus on U.S. policies and certain segments of the American people."[398]

See also


 This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC BY SA 3.0 IGO License statement: World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development Global Report 2017/2018, 202, University of Oxford, UNESCO. To learn how to add open license text to Wikipedia articles, please see this how-to page. For information on reusing text from Wikipedia, please see the terms of use.


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