Fake News

Fake news most often describes inaccurate or false information spread online by either news services or via social media. However, the phrase is sometimes used in other ways such as to describe anything thought to be false, misleading or inaccurate online.

Questions you may have:

  • What forms does fake news take? Open or Close

    Often fake news is shared as a social media post (like a tweet, post or comment) or in the style of a traditional news article. However, it can take many forms, including images and videos. Fake news is mostly understood to consist of hoaxes or deliberately false information. However it may also be used to describe satirical (a type of joke) content, clickbait, rumours, false content shared by accident or even adverts.

  • Is fake news actually dangerous? Open or Close

    Not always but it can be, especially if it begins to change how people think and behave. For example, fake information about vaccinations could lead to parents choosing not to vaccinate their children, which could mean they are more likely to get sick. Sometimes fake news can also encourage dangerous or harmful beliefs or actions, which could also hurt people if trusted and taken seriously. Thankfully there’s lots we can all do to prevent these kinds of problems.

  • How can I spot fake news? Open or Close

    Some fake news is easy to spot – it might include spelling mistakes, be hosted on a suspicious site or have been shared by only a few people with no supporting evidence. Sometimes fake news can look very realistic and may have been spread widely or picked up by lots of different sites – in this case, the best way to spot it is look for the original source of the news, check for the story on reliable news services or use a fact checker.

  • What is a fact checker? Open or Close

    Fact checking is something that anyone can do and involves looking at published information and verifying if it is accurate or not. With more people talking about and sharing fake news, there are now many official fact checking services available, where the public can search for a topic and find fact checked stories. In the UK you could use Full Fact, which is run by an independent charity who aim to expose and counter bad information.

  • Are unofficial news sources always wrong? Open or Close

    Definitely not! One of the great things about the internet is that anyone can have a voice and people can share their experiences as they happen – this means we no longer need to rely on traditional news and media to keep us up-to-date with what’s happening in the world. However, it’s always worth bearing in mind that an unofficial news source like a post, photo or video is not guaranteed to be accurate. If you can, wait until you’ve been able to check the news from several sources and always question what you are seeing before taking it at face value.

  • Can I report fake news? Open or Close

    Many social media services are now taking more responsibility for fake news that is shared by their users and are working hard to remove it where they can. If you see fake or inaccurate information being shared on social media, it’s worth reporting as it may be taken down. For more information on how to make a report on different services visit the ‘How to make a report’ page on our website.

  • Why do people share fake news? Open or Close

    Sometimes fake news is shared on by accident – for example, if someone thought it was true! Often fake news is designed to be shocking or to get your attention and may be an exaggerated version of the truth, which means people may be more likely to share it with their friends and family when they see it. However, some fake news is created and shared deliberately because people want to change your opinion or behaviour in relation to a particular topic, like politics or a famous person. Some fake news can also be shared because people are prejudiced and want to target or hurt particular groups, like different races, religions, gender identities or sexualities.

  • Someone I know has been sharing fake news, what should I do? Open or Close

    This can be a difficult situation and will depend on your relationship with the person. If you feel comfortable doing so, you could message them and explain that what they’ve shared isn’t true. Try to be respectful and think about how you would feel if the roles were reversed – nobody likes to hear that they’re wrong! You could include a link to a fact checking website if you think it might help. Alternatively, you may be able to report their post – reporting on social media is anonymous, so they won’t know that it was you. The best option is to talk to an adult you know and trust, like a parent or carer who supports you at home, so that you can tackle the situation together.

  • I think I accidentally shared on something fake, what can I do? Open or Close

    Firstly, don’t worry – we’ve all made mistakes online and there’s some easy things you can do to fix this. Like anything you’ve shared but shouldn’t have, the first thing to do is delete your original post. You may also want to send a quick message to anyone who has interacted with it (liked, commented, etc). If you’re still concerned that people may have believed it or might share it on elsewhere, it could also be worth sharing a quick correction post. Try something like: “Woops! Realised my last post wasn’t entirely true…” and including a link to a reliable article on the same topic.

  • I have seen many different news stories online about the virus, and I’m not sure what to believe – what should I do? (COVID-19) Open or Close

    I have seen many different news stories online about the virus, and I’m not sure what to believe – what should I do? (COVID-19)

    COVID-19 is a virus that everybody is still learning about, and the different online posts about it can sometimes feel overwhelming. There are people online who are spreading dangerous messages - such as the pandemic being a hoax, or not to take the virus seriously. However, research is being done and it is possible to find trustworthy information online. Our Top Tips for identifying fake news still apply in this situation – you can find them below.

    If you are still in doubt, ask a trusted adult about the story (e.g. parent/carer, teacher, etc.) However, do keep your mental health in mind. If you are finding that the news online is getting you down, take a break from it. Whilst it’s important to be informed, your wellbeing must be your top priority.

Top Tips

  1. Read beyond the headline – when scrolling or searching online, remember that you won’t always get the full story from a headline, title or photo.
  2. Look for the original source – whatever content you are looking at, try to work out who created it or where it came from originally.
  3. Question the things you see – Think about its purpose, whether it matches what you already know or if there are any clues it might be suspicious.
  4. Do further research – it’s always best to check multiple sources, like several websites, different videos or even offline in a book.
  5. Take action against fake news – use the report tool or speak up about fake or misleading content and never share it on without checking it’s true.
  6. Speak to an adult you know and trust for further help and support - this could be a parent, carer or whoever looks after you at home, a teacher or staff member at school, or somebody else.