How to successfully avoid using fake news

We just need to turn on the TV these days and we’re constantly confronted with false information and allegations of fake news. However, moving beyond the headlines, what is fake news? Why should we be worried about it? How do we identify it and how can we avoid being pulled in? These are the questions I’m seeking to answer with this post.

I’m going to stick with the term “fake news” for this post, but I do want to acknowledge that because of the political connotations now attached to the term, we are being encouraged to use the term False Information outside of the political arena. Regardless of the name we give this phenomenon it is insipid, and can cause a lot of confusion and damage when people believe the stories are true, so lets look at how to identify and avoid it. There is so much focus on fake news sometimes that its difficult to know what’s real and the real stories are lost as the false information gets more attention.

Defining Fake News

At its most basic, we are talking about any information which is untrue or partially untrue and is being reported in the press or social media etc, where this false/fake news story is being perpetuated. Social Media has made it much quicker and easier to spread news and stories, including fake news – so very quickly false or inaccurate information can go global.

Fake news can be either deliberate, setting out to mislead or misinform people, knowing that the details/information is false. Conspiracy theories are example of fake news. People buy into the false information being fed to them. think of some of the stories/conspiracy theories circulating at the outbreak of Covid-19 and some of the scaremongering about the vaccines; if we continue to consider this, how many lives were put at risk because the fear of the vaccines was greater than the fear of the virus thanks to some fake news stories. (I actually had a former friend who believed the vaccines would make us regress and no longer be humans and the international political powers were driving this to take away all our rights – I wonder why people seem to accept such stories without considering any of the evidence purportedly backing this up).

The second type of fake news can be well intentioned. You hear a story and believe it to be true, but don’t check the facts and pass the information on. If that story ends up being false, you have created and are responsible for the spreading of fake news. This type of fake news may not have been deliberate, but if you consider how some social media posts can go viral, you can see how much of a problem it might be, to try and correct that false information.

Currently in the UK there has been a woman missing for 3 weeks where police investigations into her disappearance have been hampered as they cannot ignore fake news stories circulating on social media. There has been at least one instance of a social media influencer who was arrested because of his involvement in encouraging fake news stories. I don’t think these stories were malicious, but even though well intended, they did cause a lot of problems. See this BBC report for some insight.

A third definition we require to explore is where something is claimed erroneously to be fake news. This could be where someone disagrees/dislikes some facts and tires to discredit them by attempting to label them as fake news. This approach is used to try and discredit something which is real, maybe because someone disagrees with or is unhappy about the facts/the reality.

The best way to deal with such fears, such ignorance, is by being informed. By ensuring you think critically about whatever you’re reviewing and applying evidence-based practice and critical thinking skills, you should hopefully be able to identify and avoid fake news.

Fake news: What is it? And how to spot it
How to spot real and fake news (Mindtools)

Identifying Fake News

When looking at information, you shouldn’t just take it at face value; you should think about what you are reading/looking at. Does it sound plausible? Do you believe it? Where did the author get the information from? Have they given you references for their sources? Are they presenting opinions or facts?

You should also look at who is writing. Are they a trustworthy source? Is the website genuine or fake (have a look at the url – is it what you expect to see – just the same as you can recognise spam emails)?

If you do an internet search can you find the same information online from other reputable sources. If they are also reporting the same information independently, then its more likely to be genuine.

When you are researching – whether its for something serious (work, studies, blogging) or more relaxed, you want to make sure you have all the facts, and that you have accurate and up-to-date information. Making good use of evidence contributes to that. To ensure good evidence-based practice you should read/investigate widely from a range of reliable, trustworthy and credible sources. Where possible also try to look for proof that the work you are reviewing is using evidence too.

That’s my explanation of fake news, but I’d like to open up discussion – should we take action when we discover Fake News? And if so, what should that action be? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Sign up to my blog to receive notification of future posts.


  1. Even in the mainstream media channels, here in the UK, Brenda, there is so much bias in the way news is reported it is difficult to work out what is true or not. When I attended incidents as a police officer, and took statements from people who witnessed an event, five people could give me five different versions of what happened. Human nature will provide some bias in what is seen and reported and, unless there is filmed footage of an event, it will always be problematic to find reporting which is other than hearsay. In answer to your question, where fake news exists, we have to find as many reliable sources as is possible to discredit that piece of news.

  2. Thats very true Davy, eyewitness testimony is not always as reliable as we might thing. We all interpret things based in our own viewpoint and experience, choosing where to focus – even if unconsciously

  3. Yes, it’s very similar to the prompt image. Fake news, biased views and misleading information all are spoiling the trust people used to have in broadcast media.

  4. There’s always been “fake news”–both information that has been slanted and false rumors. But today it is easier to create and distribute both, the audience is larger, and because of the speed it can be spread, it becomes more pervasive.

  5. Thanks for sharing this thought-provoking post, Brenda. I’ve come across a fair few people who share fake news. Some were ‘anti-vaxxers’ giving out leaflets and waving flags and posters, telling everyone that the government was trying to control us and that the Covid vaccines could kill us, make us sterile or brain-injured etc., etc. I hope I’m not speaking out of turn here, as I naturally have no idea what your or other readers’ points of view are. I’m not trying to say I’m right all the time; far from it, but just that I don’t believe in trying to persuade people to dispute the facts. I do think that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and choices, but I don’t think they should be pushing their misguided views onto others and attempting to mislead the public, possibly to their detriment X

    • Thanks Ellie. I think I believe similarly to yourself. With the “friend” I referred to, he wasn’t willing to listen to others or discuss alternative points of view. As an educator, I will very rarely ever express my own opinion in class but will encourage students to explore all the opinions and then we have a healthy debate in class. I hope I’m teaching my students to be more analytical and think about facts rather than just accepting things at face value
      Thanks for taking the time to comment Ellie

  6. Fake news is too common nowdays
    and it was not the case before.

    The thing is there are too many sources and it’s hard to believe if it’s truth or false.
    Then people start sharing stuff on whatsapp and others starts believing it.

    We should also check the source and verify it.
    One good thing a Times of india is doing that, they nowdays give options to share the news with them and they will tell if its truth or not.

    Honestly, I don’t see news randomly. I only read newspaper. Because, when you se multiple sources you get bemused.

  7. Hi Brenda,

    I think it’s important to understand why I want to read, hear and watch a particular type of news and what I want from it.

    Because I prepare for a national level competitive exam for the Civil Services, I have limited categories of variety of topics.

    My sources are newspapers, magazines and some YouTube channels.

    I do have personal interests, including intellectual, inspirational and tech innovation topics.

    Eliminating the news via topic, coverage style and source would be very helpful.

    If you’re enough aware and consuming news for a long time, you know what to seek, where and how.
    There’s should be a scope of open exchanges and raising questions.

    • I think developing critical thinking skills are key so you always question, not taking things at face value, especially where you have limited knowledge. The key will be to try and build your own knowledge and ideas/opinions that you can back up

Leave a Reply