Skip to Main Content

Disinformation, misinformation, and fake news

Learn how to identify and avoid fake news and other types of disinformation.

"Fake News." What is it?

Sorting through the vast amount of information created and shared online is challenging even for experts. This guide defines terms including and related to "fake news" while offering resources and information to avoid both reading and sharing it.

These are important information evaluation skills that you'll use for the rest of your life. The more aware you are of what false information is and how it spreads, the better you will be at avoiding it yourself - and helping your friends and family do the same.

Misinformation, disinformation, and fake news: What's the difference?

Term Definition Source
misinformation “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead”
disinformation "deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda”
fake news "purposefully crafted, sensational, emotionally charged, misleading or totally fabricated information that mimics the form of mainstream news"  Fake news: understanding media and misinformation in the digital age (back cover)
deepfake "an image or recording that has been convincingly altered and manipulated to misrepresent someone as doing or saying something that was not actually done or said"

Why care about fake news?

Fake news is effective. Our brains can easily make us believe that fake news is real news through something called "confirmation bias." Watch this video by Above The Noise to learn more.

Fake news can hurt you.

  1. You deserve the truth. You are smart enough to make up your own mind - as long as you have real facts in front of you. You have every right to be insulted when you read fake news: you are being lied to by someone or something looking to benefit off of your error in judgement.
  2. Fake news destroys your credibility.  If your arguments are built on bad information, it will be much more difficult for people to believe you in the future.
  3. Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people.  Purveyors of fake and misleading medical advice like and help perpetuate myths like HIV and AIDS aren't related, or that vaccines cause autism.  These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.
  4. Real news can benefit you.  If you want to buy stock in a company, you want to read accurate articles about that company so you can invest wisely.  If you are planning on voting in an election, you want to read as much good information on a candidate so you can vote for the person who best represents your ideas and beliefs.  Fake news will not help you make money or make the world a better place, but real news can.

Fake news is a problem. Fake news stories are ubiquitous - everywhere - in the information water we swim in. Current events around COVID-19, social justice, elections, public schooling, healthcare and many more are all impacted by fake news, as are the choices individuals, families, and communities make based on misleading or fabricated information.

Infographic: Fake News Is A Real Problem | Statista

What makes a news story fake?


Deepfakes are a new and particularly challenging type of audio, video, or image disinformation, generally used in malicious ways. They have the potential to rapidly spread false words and actions to a global audience, and can be extremely difficult to distinguish from real content. 

Suggested readings to understand deepfake technology:

Clackamas Community College Library - 19600 Molalla Avenue, Oregon City, Oregon 97045
Reference: 503-594-6042     |     |     Circulation: 503-594-6323
Library Hours     |     Moodle     |     myClackamas     |     FAQ
Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, content in these research guides is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Link broken? Information need updating? Have website feedback? Please email