Exclusive Series: Fake news -The 7 types of misinformation and disinformation

This is the second article in our series on fake news. See our previous article here for more information.


by Felicia Cravens


Seven Types of Fakery


One of the hardest things about dealing with fakery is getting people to agree on definitions. Claire Wardle of First Draft News has a wonderful graphic to help differentiate between some prevalent types of misinformation and disinformation. This week we’ll flesh this out with some examples that I’ve encountered in dealing with fakery (my preferred catch-all term), so you can see these in practice. The whole article is worth a read, too, though we’ll only focus on the image.


Satire or Parody – No intention to cause harm, but has potential to fool


You probably know of some familiar parody sites, like Babylon Bee and The Onion. Most everyone is in on the joke, and most people know that they are jokes. Some typical example headlines:



But there are people who create satire that is intended to fool others. One of those is Christopher Blair, who creates fakery specifically to bait conservatives into sharing it so that he and his followers can mock them. And it works far too often. You’ll want to be on the lookout for his work, often shared from one of his pages – Last Line of Defense. Check out the About section of the page – he tells you all of his posts are fake, and yet few people check that out before sharing. Unfakery first covered him in this video.


False Connection – When headlines, visuals, or captions don’t support the content (click-bait)


This is your standard click bait. Creators of this content want to get you to click to it, but they aren’t at all concerned with backing up the claims of the headlines or images they use. We like to expose them like this:



Misleading Content – Misleading use of information to frame an issue or individual


In this category, the people writing the articles intend to give a particular impression, usually one that a more careful reading would expose as quite different from the actual events. Frequently the authors have an agenda or bias that they wish to advance and frame the article to promote that agenda or bias.


While this content can frequently be found in fakery sites, legacy news organizations and traditional media sources are guilty of this as well. This is also the category where I believe many of the charges of ‘fake news’ arise on the right.



False Context – When genuine content is shared with false contextual information


In this category, we find that elements of the story might be real – say, the images used – but they are placed in a different context, or falsely attributed to a different event.



Imposter Content – When genuine sources are impersonated


This category isn’t just about fake websites posting as news media outlets, though those are included here. Here we also have fake celebrity Facebook pages – the ones pretending to be the actual person – as well.




Manipulated Content – When genuine information or imagery is manipulated to deceive


In this category, fakers use real images or information from actual events, but weave an entirely fictional tale around them. This is why it’s so important to learn how to search on images to find out where they come from. Usually, this kind of content is aimed at people’s emotions. Fakers hope the strong emotional appeal will push people to share immediately without first doing a little checking on the story first.



Fabricated Content – New content that is 100% false, designed to deceive and do harm


Sometimes this fakery is used to trick people into giving up information, as with fake promotions and contests and giveaways. The tactic is also used to rile people up politically, sowing division over imaginary issues, and trash (or elevate) people’s reputations using fake quotes or events.



Action Item

Now that we’ve looked at these seven types of misinformation/disinformation, try looking for examples of each. Make a game of it, and see if you can collect at least one example from each category. If it helps, use this image as a guide to spot fakery. As you become better at spotting the different types of fakery, you’ll be better able to help the people you know who tend to fall for it.


About Felicia Cravens

Felicia started the Unfakery Facebook page in 2017 to help conservatives learn how to avoid fakery that was targeted at them. As a twenty-year veteran of Texas Republican politics and conservative activism, she feels her credentials might help reach people on the right where other sources might be dismissed. Felicia founded the Houston Tea Party Society in 2009 and spent much of her time developing training resources, helping people new to politics become involved and effective. Her frequent media appearances gave her a crash course in messaging and media relations as well. A political blogger for over ten years on various platforms, she has focused chiefly on conservative messaging and media accountability. Felicia is also a seventh-generation Texan and mentions it to the point of being obnoxious. Follow Felicia on Twitter @somethingsfishie
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Patricia is the founder and editor of Little Bytes News, a former elementary teacher, radio talk show host, political activist and political blogger. In 2012, Patricia was nominated one of “Circle of Moms” top 25 political bloggers.

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