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Fake News and Alternative Facts: A Guide to News Literacy: Begin Your Research

A guide to developing critical thinking skills for news literacy


Welcome to Fake News and Alternative Facts: A Guide to News Literacy! This guide is designed to help you to gain news literacy by recognizing fake news, disinformation and misinformation.

News Literacy

Stony Brook University Center for News Literacy defines "News Literacy" as:

"The ability to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports, whether they come via print, television or the Internet."

What is "Fake News?"

Fake News may take many different forms, but the essential element is always that it is partially or completely false. It may be urban legend, rumor, badly sourced writing, deliberate misinformation, or intended as humor or parody. As an information consumer, it is your responsibility to evaluate news sources for credibility, authority, and purpose, both for your own information needs and to prevent you from accidently sharing fake news to others. 

A short video on recognizing fake news from

What Are Alternative Facts?

The expression "Alternative facts" garnered widespread media attention on January 22, 2017 when used by Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to President Trump, while on NBC's Meet the Press. This sparked a national conversation on whether facts are variable and subject to interpretation.

 Oxford English Dictionary defines fact as:

"That which is known (or firmly believed) to be real or true; what has actually happened or is the case; truth attested by direct observation or authentic testimony; reality."

Misinformation, Disinformation, & Malinformation


"Misinformation refers to false information, regardless of whether or not it’s intended to mislead or deceive people. Disinformation, in contrast, refers to false information that’s spread with the specific intent of misleading or deceiving people.

Due to their similarity, the terms are sometimes used in overlapping ways. All disinformation is misinformation, but not all misinformation is disinformationDisinformation is the more specific of the two because it always implies that the false information is being provided or spread on purpose.

Disinformation is especially used in the context of large-scale deception, such as a disinformation campaign by a government that targets the population of another country. Misinformation can be spread with the intent to trick people or just because someone incorrectly thinks it’s true."

Source: What's the Difference Between Misinformation and Disinformation? 


From (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency):

  • Misinformation is false, but not created or shared with the intention of causing harm.
  • Disinformation is deliberately created to mislead, harm, or manipulate a person, social group, organization, or country.
  • Malinformation is based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.  An example of malinformation is editing a video to remove important context to harm or mislead.

Foreign actors use misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation campaigns to cause chaos, confusion, and division. These malign actors are seeking to interfere with and undermine our democratic institutions and national cohesiveness.