Believe it or not, “Fake News” has been around for a while. The term actually dates back to the late 19th century, when newspapers and magazines would boast about their own journalistic prowess and mock that of their rivals. Back then, people received their information from trusted media sources, where journalists were required to follow strict codes of practice.

The internet has since revolutionised the way we publish, consume, and share information. Many people now consume their news from social media sites and other online sources, which tend to have very little regulation and editorial standards. Thus, it’s easy to indulge in content that may not always be 100% factual.

“Fake News” can be primarily divided into two categories. The first one is stories that have been published containing deliberately made up or inaccurate information, which may have been published for the purpose of misleading or manipulating the public, or to drive traffic to a certain website. The second is content that contains elements of the truth but are overall inaccurate. This might be because the writer hasn’t properly checked all the facts, or they’re trying to exaggerate something to make a point or fit a certain bias.

There are several ways in which misinformation and disinformation can become dangerous. When people can’t differentiate fact from fiction, it creates confusion and misunderstanding about important political and social issues. It can also lead to people making poor choices when it comes to medical treatments or major diseases. Furthermore, certain posts containing false information are designed to inflict or worsen social conflict. When both sides of the argument are being fed misinformation and disinformation, it leads to greater polarisation.

So, how do we go about identifying fake news? When you come across news and you’re unsure of its credibility, follow this 10-step checklist to identify and avoid fake news.  

  1. The Source. Check the web address of the site you’re visiting for any spelling errors or strange domain extensions. Fake news sites will often try to impersonate a reliable news source, so make sure you’re visiting “” instead of “”.
  2. The Author. See if you can verify their credibility before sharing their work. For example, are they real? Do they have a good reputation? Are they writing about a subject they are knowledgeable of? Are they following a particular agenda?
  3. Cross Examine. Is this story referenced on any other reputable news sites, and are any credible sources cited in the story?
  4. Critical Thinking. Fake news is often written in such a way to provoke strong emotional reactions from the reader, like anger or fear. Ask yourself why this story or article has been written. Is it promoting a particular cause or agenda?
  5. Look for the Facts. Factual news stories contain lots of facts, such as statistics, data, and comments from experts. If the factual information is missing, ask yourself why.
  6. The Comments. Even if the story is legitimate, the comments often contain responses with links generated by bots.
  7. Check Yourself. Could your own personal biases be influencing the way you respond to a story? Social media algorithms create echo chambers, meaning you’re fed more of the content that aligns with your habits, interests, and opinions.
  8. Satire? Many parodies blur the line between what is fact and fiction. Check the rest of the website to see if they post other satirical content.
  9. The Pictures. Images you see online can be drastically edited of manipulated. There can be obvious signs that an image has been changed, like warping of straight lines and oddly shaped shadows. However, a legitimate image can be used in the incorrect context. You can reverse image search the picture to see if it appears anywhere else on the internet and where it originated from.
  10. Fact Check. There are many reputable fact-checking websites that you can use to see if a story is true. These include Snopes, Fact Check, PolitiFact, and BBC Reality Check.

If you can’t tell if a story is fact or fiction, you may want to stop and think twice before sharing it.