What is misinformation?

Learn about fake news and how it can impact young people

With so many sources of information online, it has become difficult to make sense of what content is based on fact, half-truths or lies. This page explains what fake news is and how it can impact those who see it.

Display video transcript
Social media is changing the way we get

our news fake news can be found embedded

in traditional news social media or fake

news sites and has no basis in fact but

is presented as being factually accurate

this has allowed hackers controls even

politicians to use the net to spread

disinformation online our children can

struggle to separate fact from fiction

thanks to the spread of fake news here

are some basic strategies to help them

develop critical digital literacy talk

to them children rely more on their

family than social media for their news

so talk to them about what is going on

read many people share stories who don't

actually read encourage your kids to

read beyond the headline check teach

children quick and easy ways to check

the reliability of information like

considering the source doing a search to

double-check the author's credibility

seeing if the information is available

on reputable sites and using credible

fact-checking websites to get more


get involved digital literacy is about

participation teach your kids to be

honest vigilant and creative digital

citizens fake news spreads

misinformation and anxiety among

schoolchildren but they are more

literate and resilient than you might

think if we give them the tools to tell

that foundation their digital literacy

will make the Internet a great place for

us all to find out what is going on in

the world


4 quick things to know about fake news

What is misinformation?

Misinformation is where false information is shared without the intent to cause harm. For example, resharing inaccurate photos, quotes or dates online because the user believed they were correct.

What is disinformation?

Disinformation is false information that is shared deliberately, with the intention to mislead someone. For example someone sharing inaccurate news stories or false political information.

What forms can fake news take?

From social media hoaxes to AI adverts, misinformation is becoming increasingly hard to spot. Fake news, misinformation and disinformation can take many forms from posts to stand-alone websites.

What is fake news?

Fake information that is shared online is commonly referred to as ‘fake news’. This can be shared accidentally or on purpose.

What is fake news?

Fake news stories use technology and social media to look like proper news sites. Organisations and political groups may target you with ads that look like the news. While hackers use bots, bits of software, to create multiple social media accounts and use those to spread disinformation.

This can make a false story seem real, simply because it looks like it has been shared by so many people. Fake news can fall into two categories:


False information that’s created and shared to deliberately cause harm.


Generally used to refer to misleading information created or disseminated without a deliberate intent to cause harm.

How does misinformation spread online?

Most misinformation and disinformation can look very convincing. Especially with the role of AI and deep fakes that can create videos that look incredibly real. Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis has talked at length about a series of AI adverts that look incredibly real. However, these are all part of a scam.

There are a few different ways that this information can then spread:

Social media

Fake social media posts and accounts help make misinformation viral. Sometimes this is then reported as fact by real journalists. When it becomes the news, the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred.

Algorithms and ‘echo-chambers’

Fake news presents strong, often prejudiced opinions, as fact. It can also direct these opinions to those most likely to agree to reinforce them. This so-called “echo-chamber” effect is made worse by algorithms, clever bits of software, which encourage you to read material similar to what you are already sharing. Hackers often hack or manipulate these algorithms.

What impact can fake news have on young people?

Nearly all children are now online, but many of them are not emotionally equipped to deal with the challenges of a fake news online culture. Half of the children asked in an interview with the National Literacy Trust admitted to being worried about fake news. While teachers surveyed on the matter noted a real increase in issues of anxiety, self-esteem, and a general skewing of world views.

According to the National Literacy Trust, more than half of 12-15 year-olds go to social media as their regular source of news

According to the National Literacy Trust, it’s estimated that only 2% of school children have the critical literacy skills to tell the difference between real and fake news.

Fake news terms and definitions

Fake news can take many different forms, here are a few examples of the most common.

Fake papers (Imposter news sites)

They look like traditional newspapers online but are not – they often showcase images and videos that have been manipulated.

Bad ads

Ads that contain scams or false claims.


This refers to a person who uses their skills to gain unauthorised access to systems and networks in order to commit crimes such as identity theft or often holding systems hostage to collect ransom.

Satire/comedy sites

They have no intention to cause harm but have the potential to fool people into thinking content is real (examples: Onion or Daily Mash site).


This is when technology is used to replicate live facial movements of a person in a video and audio to make it seem real. Some of these videos have gone viral where high-profile people like President Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg have been impersonated in fake clips.

Sock puppet accounts

These are accounts that use fake online identities to mislead or manipulate public opinion.


Although not an example of fake news, these are fake profiles, mainly on social media, that are created to spread fake news using automated technology.

Misleading content

Articles or news stories that use fake facts to distort a particular issue or an individual.


People, often politicians, willing to use fake news stories to gain popular support.


These are posts, articles and videos that you may see in social feeds or websites that use dramatic headlines or claims for free items or results to get as many people to click on the article, i.e. ‘you won’t believe what…’.They may have eye catching images, an emotive or humorous tone to get people’s attention.


These typically are imposter emails, text, or websites that pretend to come from a reputable organisation in order to gain someone’s personal information. Learn more about phishing with advice from ESET.


Disinformation that often spreads because of its sensational topic. It could spread through fake news stories, through videos on social media and in different ways. Learn about hoaxes on TikTok.