The fine line between fact and fiction

Lurid headlines and sensational images – "fake news" is not always recognizable at first glance. What exactly is "fake news" and what are they trying to achieve? We explain the term and how you can protect yourself from it.

By the time the truth has put on its shoes, the lie has been around the world three times over. With the Internet, it is easier today than ever before to spread lies, false reports and conspiracy theories. Before the Internet became a mass medium, newspapers, radio and television were the number one source of information. As a rule, journalists work there who feel bound by professional standards such as the press code in Germany.

In addition, there is social and societal control of the classic media. Although there are always cases of journalists who report falsely or make up stories – such as the recent case of the Spiegel editor Claas Relotius – in the end it is always discovered and the media companies draw the appropriate consequences.

The Internet, on the other hand, is a mouthpiece for everyone. Anyone can create their own website or YouTube channel with a few clicks and publish there. This has significantly increased the diversity of opinions and news. Many YouTubers, bloggers and freelance journalists use the Internet to report on their topics. Many adhere to common journalistic standards.

Who profits from "fake news?

But there are also sites and channels on the net that don’t think much of these standards and pursue an agenda all their own. This happens for different motives, some simply want to earn money with many clicks, others want to disinform politically and still others are simply convinced of their view of the world. But all have nothing to do with serious journalism.

In terms of news, this means that due to the abundance of information and news on the net, users can no longer be sure which information can be trusted. As a result, people fall for "fake news" or are at least unsure whether it is "fake news," satire or real news.

What is "fake news" and what are the different types??

"Fake" means false and "news" means news. "Fake news" is therefore nothing more than news that is deliberately falsified. This is not only limited to texts, but also fake or manipulated pictures and videos circulate on the net. Another means is to put real texts and pictures into a false context and thus falsify the actual message of the original. Or people consciously or unconsciously draw false conclusions from facts. "Fake news" comes in different levels of intensity. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technolgoy (MIT), three levels can be distinguished.

  • Level 1: News that gives extreme attention to an unimportant or minor issue
  • Stage 2: Propaganda
  • Stage 3: Targeted disinformation

Even the term "fake news" is not immune to reinterpretation when public figures try to discredit serious reporting with the term "fake news" or refer to the media in general as the "lying press".

Opinion mongering and manipulation

There are interest groups that take advantage of the fact that "fake news" is not always recognizable at first glance. Fake news is often accompanied by lurid headlines and images that are intended to appeal to users on an emotional level. This is how people are persuaded to click on a particular article and influence their opinion in the spirit of the article. At the same time, the senders of such messages use the mechanisms of social networks such as Twitter or Facebook. Users tend to like and share particularly emotional or scandalous news stories. In this way, they contribute to the spread of the news. The real news, the correction or the fact check, on the other hand, seldom achieve this emotionality and thus achieve significantly less dissemination.

Recognizing "fake news" and protecting yourself

It is in one’s own interest to protect oneself from "fake news". Because especially with regard to political decisions, forming one’s own opinion has top priority. But it is not always so easy to recognize "fake news" immediately. Particularly because on the Internet, people tend to skim the wealth of information with their eyes instead of reading every line as they would in a book.

It can’t hurt to generally navigate social media with a healthy dose of suspicion. Tear-jerking headlines and pictures can be an indication, as can the lack of citation of sources. Question if a lot of numbers, data and facts appear in a text without a serious citation of sources. When reading, check whether the text is written neutrally or rather reflects an opinion. If the text is written as a commentary, question whether there is a balanced diversity of opinion. If you are redirected to a website you don’t know, check if there is an imprint and who is named there – even if it has a serious appearance. Advertisements for dubious products sometimes come across as pretty brazen, too. The look of serious news sites is copied in order to promote the miracle product in the form of a supposedly journalistic article. In such cases, it is better to look twice.

Regulating "fake news"

Getting a handle on the "fake news" problem is difficult for social media operators. Automated algorithms have difficulty filtering out the differences between fact and reality in language – they fail completely when it comes to satire. There is also a problem with users being able to report such contributions, because it is not clear for what reasons the user is reporting this. It can be assumed that the phenomenon could also become stronger in social media in the coming years – especially during election campaigns.


Fake news/duck: A duck or newspaper duck is the term used to describe a false report. As a rule, these are errors on the part of the editor, which are corrected with a correction in one of the following issues.

Framing: Framing describes the effect of changing opinions when the media omit or emphasize certain aspects when reporting on topics and events. Thus, a particular interpretation or interpretive framework of a topic is given, which has been shown to be frequently adopted by the audience.

Gloss: Glosses are usually found in the margins of newspapers. In it, an editor expresses his or her own view on a current issue. The most important characteristic of a gloss is an ironic or even satirical style of presentation.

Comment: In a commentary, the editor expresses his or her own opinion on an issue. Unlike the gloss, the point here is not an ironic presentation, but to add another aspect or angle that is important to the author. Often a picture of the editor is shown here to accompany the text.

Lugenpresse: The term "lying press" has been used since the beginning of the 19. Century used. Currently it is used mainly by the political right in relation to the public media. It accuses deliberate falsehoods that discredit one’s own camp. In 2014, the term was declared the "Unword of the Year".

News story: A news story is a short message directed to the public with information that answers the journalistic W-questions, i.e. who, what, where, when and why. They are a neutral representation of real events.

Priming: Priming is a term from psychology that has been adopted as media priming in communication research. Priming assumes that our brain can process information better and easier when it is associated with the same association. With regard to mass media, "the effect states that media consumers prefer to judge specific political actors according to those criteria that have been increasingly discussed in the general media coverage."

Like this post? Please share to your friends:
Leave a Reply

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: