Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Library Homepage College Homepage
Research Guides

Fake News: Home


"Fake news" has been around for a while (for example, Orson Welles' 1938 radio broadcast "The War of the Worlds," and the satirical news organization The Onion, founded in 1988), but certain kinds have more recently come into widespread discussion. What is fake news, and how can we detect it?  This guide is designed to help answer those questions.

What are the types of online fake news?

There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.

CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.

CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information

CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions

CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news

*Articles / fake news stories can fall under more than one category.

Adapted from:


Propaganda, Misinformation, and Disinformation

  • Propaganda does not necessarily involve false information. The Oxford English Dictionary (Online, 3rd ed.) defines propaganda as "the systematic dissemination of information, [especially] in a biased or misleading way, in order to promote a political cause or point of view."
    • Example: political campaign ads or speeches
  • Misinformation is wrong or inaccurate information.  Unlike propaganda and disinformation, misinformation is not deliberate.
    • Example: urban legends
  • Disinformation is deliberately spread false information, intended to mislead, influence opinion, or hide the truth.
    • Example: fabricated "news" stories passed off as real


Ask a Librarian

Contact the Geisel Library Reference Desk

email Email
Chat Chat
smartphone Text (603) 556-8883
 phone Call (603) 641-7306
calendar Make an Appointment

Fall Reference Hours

We're here to respond during...
M-Tu: noon - 10:00 p.m.
W-Th: noon - 4:30 p.m.
F: noon - 3:00 p.m.
Sa: noon - 5:00 p.m.

Spotting Fake News

How to spot fake news

"How to Spot Fake News" by IFLA is published under CC BY 4.0