In this day and age how do we know what is false and what is true in the media we consume?

Fake news "operates under the guise of credible journalism to convince you of a falsehood – usually for political or monetary gain. It only works when you don’t know it’s a lie. In short, satire plays with its audience; fake news preys on its audience". (Scott Anderson, University of Toronto Magazine)

The visualizations in this webpage, concentrate on and display different types of fake news that include, political and tabloid stories that are sometimes ridiculous, disturbing and even "somewhat true". It is the fake stories that are almost true – almost believeable, that create the most confusion and mistrust.

Facebook, and X are key players in the spread of fake news and misinformation. Other sites that pop up (are published then pulled down) perpetuate the problem we face.

Source: Univeristy of Toronto Magazine

Types of Fake News

Attributed to top keyword usage (based on data collected by Research Gate) these stories include attention grabing headlines that are often explicit with the intention to shock. The fake news highlighed here, are just some examples, used to show how many times false stories, despite appearing unbelieveable and ridiculous, are retweeted and engaged with.

Random Fake Stories by Retweet numbers (2017)

Dataset: Kaggle Fake News (2017)
Keyword attribution:Research Gate

How would you describe these stories?

The U.S. Constitution owes its notion of democracy to the Iroquois Tribes.

FalseBarely TrueSomewhat TrueTrue

Politicians receive full pay retirement after serving 1 term!

FalseBarely TrueSomewhat TrueTrue

Warning: Some stories are explicit.

Engagement with Fake News

Politics is the playground of fake news and where fake news arguably originated. It is defintely a topic we see a large number of false stories fall under.

Stories by Facebook Engagement (2018)

Dataset: BuzzFeed "Fake-news-top-50" (2018)

How False is it?

It is not clear whether the more absurd stories engaged with are shared for the sake of humor or to truly misinform us, but regardless, the magnitude of false stories that appear to be somewhat true, make it much harder to decipher the truth.

Spectrum from FALSE to TRUE

Debunked stories by fact checking. (2013-2020)

Dataset: Kaggle Fake Real News (2013-2020)

Who is Spreading it?

Whether a news platform is legitimate or not, the media in general benefits from the amount of consumer traffic they receive from fake news.

Tweets per Real and False Articles

Dataset: Kaggle Fake News (2017)

True or False?

The bottom line is, this project does not illustrate ways of becoming better at distinguishing between fake and real stories. What this project highlights is how urgent and apparent it is to check the sources and the news we are consumming, especially when in doubt.

Author: Neven Armanios. Data Visualization Information Aesthetics, Fall 2023. The New School, Parsons School of Design (2023).