We don’t live in a black and white world. Our reality is full of various shades of blurred-edged grey, and the same applies to the world of fake news.
It would perhaps be easy and rather convenient to be able to label every story we see on the Internet as either fake or real, but it doesn’t work like that. There are many gradients we can use to describe a story in the context of “fakeness”, and to make matters worse, those borders between different labels are blurred and usually subjective.
So how can we categorise news stories? We have our own labels below. Let us know if you agree or disagree with them.
So here we start with fake news, which refers to the stories that basically make up the theme of our website. When we say fake news, we refer to bona-fide, completely made-up news stories where the main theme of the story has just been made up.
The fake news story would have been created specifically to deceive people. Such stories are often presented to appear like a story you’d see on a mainstream media outlet to add credibility to the story. However the story is demonstrably false, often needing only a 1 minute Internet search to debunk its claims.
Often fake news is published under the justification of “satire” (see below) designed to entertain the reader, which we dub “fauxtire”. However these stories lack any obvious indication that they’re satire (e.g. an indication of humour) and a critical look at the site will reveal that the story is designed to fool, not entertain. Of course the line between satire and “fauxtire” is often blurred and open to interpretation based on your own understanding of satire.
Additionally fake news may use a combination of both facts and fiction designed to promote a political or ideological agenda, and as such the line between fake news and hyper-partisan stories (below) can also be blurred.
Examples of popular fake news sites including NationalReport.net, WorldNewsDailyReport.com and Now88News.com
Satire refers to humorous articles that poke fun and exaggerate certain themes, concepts or topics to the point of absurdity. Satire is designed to entertain, and typically the reader will be aware of its jovial nature and won’t take the story seriously or at face value. Of course on rare occasions satirical articles can be misinterpreted as genuine.
As we pointed out above, there is often a blurred line between what could count as satire and what could be considered fake news “fauxtire”.
Examples of satire include the UK’s NewsThump and the US’ The Onion.
Hyper-partisan articles often appear on websites that often deal with genuine news but heavily spin such stories to promote a heavily one-sided agenda. In doing so, such stories can often conflate speculation as fact, and are unlikely to provide a balanced view of any topic they cover.
Hyper partisan sites may also promote fake stories or conspiracy theories that support their agenda, or rely heavily on opinion, rumour, conjecture and speculation to support a conclusion. It is likely that such sites will also utilize “clickbait” headlines, often heavily exaggerating a story to entice readers.
Hyper partisan websites traditionally refer to websites that significantly support a political party or ideology, though can be extended to other themes including religion.
Often the line between hyper-partisan and mainstream can be blurred.
Mainstream articles are considered genuine news in that they report on stories that did happen, and while many articles can be described as being neutral, mainstream media is often accused – sometimes with good cause – of being subject to the bias of those who cover the stories.
For example, CNN and Huffington Post are considered by many as left leaning/liberal, while FOX News and The Daily Mail are considered by many as right leaning/conservative. Mainstream media may vary in degree in terms of bias, and as such the line between mainstream and hyper-partisan can sometimes be blurred.
Of course many refer to mainstream media as fake news (most notably US President Trump.) Of course this only serves to confuse an already complex subject. There is a significant problem with real fake news on the rise (the same news we describe at the top of this article) and conflating fake news and mainstream media is – in our opinion – not advised.
Are there any truly neutral websites out there?
Of course this will depend on who you ask, but there are no media outlets without their critics. Even state funded and monitored outlets like the BBC have many critics.
The best advice for anyone who wants to stay truly neutral is to get your news from as many reputable or mainstream sources as you can, from both sides of a political/ideological spectrum – doing so will allow a reader to easily dismiss fake or heavily skewed stories, obtain multiple perspectives on a story and help to bypass the “echo chamber” effect.