Fake News: what they are and how to recognise them

10 October 2018

News of any kind has always been of great importance, and consequently so have the sources from which it comes: certifying information not only validates it, but also highlights it in a different way in the eyes of society, making it an example.

There is a lot of talk nowadays about fake news, untrue news created and spread for a variety of reasons, misleading and in some cases even potentially dangerous. From dietary regimes to apocalyptic theories to personal news about the private lives of public figures, the fields covered can be endless.

However, it should not be thought that this phenomenon only concerns the present day, because in reality it has much older and deeper roots.

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There are many examples of this, such as the rumour of Napoleon’s death spread in 1814 with the achieved aim of creating havoc and shaking the British stock market. From the Great Moon Hoax, the 1835 theory that the Moon was a sort of paradise populated by all species of existing and invented animals, to “War of the Worlds”, the famous radio play broadcast by Orson Welles in 1938, which was so realistic that a large number of listeners panicked and did not understand the fictitious nature of the alien invasion. And let us not forget the recent rumour that Barack Obama was not really born in the United States but in Africa, specifically Kenya. The list is very long indeed.

The digital age in which we live addresses these issues in an even more topical way: as a society that is constantly being updated, continuous evolution also affects the world of information, which becomes old in a matter of hours or sometimes even minutes.

The phenomenon of satirical websites, such as the Italian ‘Lercio – The dirty that makes news‘, based on the creation and dissemination of humorous and grotesque fake news, is also worth considering today. This latter category often ends up misunderstanding the news disseminated, believing it to be true headlines and arguments.

fake news moody

samantha cristoforetti fake news

It is precisely the technological and media evolution that is characteristic of our age that allows any kind of (dis)information to depopulate without any particular control. This is why the relevance of sources is becoming increasingly central.

So how can we equip ourselves to avoid falling into the trap of fake news, by recognising it and unmasking it? The most effective method is still the comparison: comparing a certain piece of news that is not particularly convincing with news on the same subject from different sources. If no match is found, the information in question is most likely fake news. Alternatively, there are websites that specialise in unmasking online hoaxes, such as David Puente’s blog devoted entirely to this activity.

At Mediability, we firmly believe in the importance of sources, which is why all the data that comes from our analyses is 100% certified! If you don’t already know it, discover our press review and analysis service on our website!