Fake news in the age of social media

Jan 1st, 2021 | by  Kavya Jain


Social media has become an inevitable part of our everyday life. Stories and opinions, national or international news, can gain exposure at unprecedented speed, providing individuals continuous access to real-time happenings around the world. But as we scroll through our feeds and quickly find ourselves bombarded with news and comments, we also wonder, is this news true or false?

What is Fake News or Misinformation?

Fake news reflects the dark side of social media. False information is defined as misleading or fake content, such as hoaxes, conspiracies, theories, click-bait headlines, and satire, distributed with the intent of deceiving the reader. Usually, the purpose of creating these stories is to influence public opinion, push a political, social, or religious agenda, cause chaos or a publicity stunt to generate profits for a business. 


False news or Misinformation has been on the rise with the rising engagement of social media platforms. Traditionally, we got our news from trusted journalists, news reporters, newspapers, and media outlets adhering to a strict code of practice. However, the internet is a free medium, allowing any person to publish content without verification and with a minimal standard. 

The first step to identifying false news is understanding the types of misinformation on social media platforms and online websites.

Types of Misinformation

1. Clickbait:


As the name suggests, click-baits bait the readers to engage with the content and generate revenues. The trick is using sensationalized headings to attract attention, appealing to the readers' curiosity and other emotions. The content is usually thin on information, and inaccurate.

2. Propaganda


Propaganda consists of stories created deliberately to mislead the public and promote a biased view or agenda. The most prominent tactics used to propagate include emotional appeal, testimonials, and using half-truths or lies to convince readers.

3. Misleading Headlines


Similar to clickbait, stories can be distorted by using misleading headlines or part of an article, taken out of context. These news articles can spread like wildfire on social media sites, where only a small snippet is displayed in the newsfeed. It is easy to manipulate the audience into believing false information by advertising an inaccurate headline.

4. Satire or Parody


Satire or parody is published as a source of entertainment, mimicking real news stories. Not every reader understands the humour, and therefore, the satire can be misinterpreted as factual. Though in this case, the intent wasn't to spread misinformation, the outcome can be similar to the above instances if the real intention is not cited clearly by the writer.

Now that we have made you aware of the most common types of false news, the next step is to understand how to identify which news is fake.

How to recognize misinformation on Social Media?

Once you have identified a doubtful or suspicious article or content on your newsfeed, the first step is to look closer into who the writer and publisher are. Do you recognize the website? If you are unfamiliar with the site, go to the about us section and read about the author. 


The next step is to look beyond the headline. Read the entire article to formulate your own opinion instead of basing it only on the sensationalized headline.

It is always recommended to cross-check and verify any suspicious content from multiple reliable sources before believing the story. Check the facts. Are the date and time correct or altered? Is it a current story or an old piece of information?

Finally, make sure to check whether the story is just a joke or parody, or a fact for real. Spreading false information within your social circles leads to directing misinformation to more and more eyes.

How to handle misinformation?

If you feel wary of any content you come across on the internet, and it fits the definition of fake news, i.e., fabricated information aimed at manipulating others, make sure to not share it ahead. Commenting on the post to flag it is not as helpful as you think because it further propagates the content. 


Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, have, therefore, come up with several options to curtail the spreading of misinformation. Users can take appropriate actions while browsing through their social media feeds with the help of reporting and flagging tools. If specific people repeatedly share misinformation, you can block or report them. If you have subscribed to a page that appears to be publishing fake news, unfollow it. Purging your newsfeed can reduce your exposure to manipulative articles.



In addition to awareness, digital media literacy and skills to critically evaluate the information are essential for anyone navigating the internet. People of all age groups- children, adults, elderly- subscribe to online mediums as sources of information and should therefore have the responsibility to question what we read, post, and share. Each one of us is individually responsible for the content we consume and the content we forward to others.  

Do Not be Fooled by the Number of Views, Say No to Fake News!



Kavya Jain

Kavya Jain

Post-Graduate Student at CEPT University

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