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Fake News, Misinformation & Propaganda: Social Media

This guide provides quick access to relevant resources on Fake News, Misinformation & Propaganda

What is Social Media?

Social Media is built upon two key parts: 

Social: Interacting with others to share and receive information. This interaction and the reciprocal sharing of information is key. 

Media: Mode of communication which is the internet. All the modes of social media use a web-based platform (vs. other traditional forms like television, radio and print resources).

With this in mind, Social Media are web-based platforms and tools that allow interaction and sharing of information between individuals and groups. The various platforms and tools might change, but fake news can be found in virtually all of them.

(Nations, 2016)

How Does your News Feed Work?

Social media sites allow users to share and access news and information but how it shares information depends on how you interact with the members of your network.

All social media platforms have an algorithm, basic computer programming or logic, that helps to sift through all the content generated by the people the user is friends with or follows. Since it is not realistic to be able to read or see every piece of content by those in your feed, the news feed uses the algorithm to do the sorting for you. 

While the algorithm or programming does change over time, at its most basic level, the news feed works on the principle that what you interact with is a key indication of what you want to see. It also takes into account what others like and whether the information is recent or is considered to have high importance, like someone getting married. But it can also mean that you may not see other interesting content because others are not interested or you have not interacted with that other user recently.

How Does Facebook Choose What to Show in News Feed?

(Constine, 2016)

Social Media Companies Tackle Fake News - Wall Street Journal Video

Short 3 minute report on strategies that social media companies are using to address and minimize the impact of fake news for their users. Closed captioning is available.

Wall Street Journal. (2016, November 15). Social media companies tackle fake news and abuse [Video]. Retrieved from

Fake Video Testimonials - CBC Video

This report from CBC marketplace (22 minutes long), shows the depth of how information can be created and manipulated. In this investigation, it is discovered that fake testimonials are a growing concern for websites and consumers, as well as a booming business for marketing and the people paid for their false reviews and testimonials. Closed captioning available.

CBC Marketplace. (2017, January27). Fake video testimonials: Inside the world of fake reviews [Video]. Retrieved from

Other Common Issues with Social Media

While platforms and tools have evolved, problems continue to plague social media:

Spam: The ease of access to users, can make it easy for spammers (both people and spambot automated tools) to overwhelm users with irrelevant information.

Cyberbullying/Cyberstalking: Since it can be easy to hide behind a computer or a fake persona, bullying and stalking online is easier and more prevalent than ever before.

Self-image Manipulation: Since social media is user driven and accessed online, it can be easy for people to craft and present a false self-image of who they are and what they do, versus the reality. So we may be presented with only happy pictures and positive stories without a fuller image what one's life or world might really look like.

Information Overload: The sheer volume of friends, followers and posts make it difficult to sort through information to find the relevant pieces. 

Privacy/Security: Since social media platforms can be hacked, sensitive information can be leaked and used.

(Nations, 2016)