About Fake News

Fake news and misinformation undermine our democratic traditions for campaigning, voting and determining winners. Fakes, frauds and hoaxes can make it difficult to make policy choices. The speed of social media and a declining trust in institutions have created a difficult environment. How is this happening and how is it impacting our world? What are we doing to fight it? Learn more here:

Fake news, made-up stories and just pure fiction masquerading as news has a long history in American politics. During periods of conflict, fake news has ebbed and flowed, often aimed at influencing opinion and voting behavior. Social media, digital technology, resurgent populist movements and severe polarization in our politics have energized a new wave of fake news designed to confuse, frighten or shape certain behavior in American elections and in our society more generally. Protect yourself against fake news!

  • What are the different types of mis- and disinformation?
  • What are the different types of propoganda?
  • How can I judge an argument for myself?

The “paranoid style” of thinking in American politics has a long history. The periodic emergence of narratives about clandestine, malevolent actors secretly plotting political and social calamities influences policy debate about vaccine regulations, genetically-modified food labeling, foreign diplomacy and domestic elections. But conspiracy theories are not the delusions of paranoid minds -- recent polls show that more than 50 percent of Americans believe in one conspiracy or another. What makes conspiracies an interesting phenomenon is that they have loyal followers and are believed, more or less, by ordinary people. Learn why people believe in and spread conspiracy theories:

  • Why do people believe crazy conspiracy theories?
  • How do narratives, framing and conflicting world views influence our belief in conspiracy theories?
  • Learn about infamous conspiracy theories from JFK to Pizzagate

Compelling stories of security failures and racial bias will likely emerge when journalists better understand the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6. But did social media algorithms also play a role? Read about Netflix's hit documentary "The Social Dilemma," and how social media impacts your views and politics.

  • How do algorithms effect what I see on my news feed?
  • What are filter bubbles, and how can social media algorithms help create them?
  • How do social media algorithms encourage the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation?

Learn more about how social media can impact news and politics through these documentaries:

The news media play an important role in determining what information audiences see, or “setting the news agenda.” The professional and ethical standards tacitly followed by journalists, editors, advertisers and news producers ensure the quality and accuracy of reporting. While journalists and other political communicators still play an important role in directing the national conversation, new communication technologies like social media are threatening the position of traditional media in our democracy.

  • How does the news media affect how we process information?
  • What is gatekeeping, and how does it shape our politics?
  • Is social media creating greater polarization?

While governments have always combated conspiracies and misinformation, today’s challenge lies in the fact that social media and new media multiply the number of distribution channels. These information channels can allow greater access to political news, but they allow bad actors to easily publish without regard for journalistic practices. Today, many online “news” sites deal in conspiracy theories and convenient misinformation to advance political goals. Institutions and governments are weighing whether to respond.

  • What are international governments doing to combat the spread of fake news?
  • What is the United States government doing to combat the spread of fake news?
  • What are media institutions like Twitter and Facebook doing to combat the spread of fake news?