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Fake News

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Fake News

Understanding Media and Misinformation in the Digital Age (Information Policy)

MIT Press,

15 min read
7 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Academics offer their ideas on the prevalence and impact of misinformation – and what to do about it.

Editorial Rating



  • Controversial
  • Analytical
  • Concrete Examples


Communications and media professors Melissa Zimdars and Kembrew McLeod offer a well-edited, well-curated collection of academic essays addressing false news stories in politics, the erosion of serious journalism, and the failure of technology and social media self-regulation to control lies and hateful propaganda. The 30 authors of these wide-ranging pieces do not shy away from controversy as they analyze the issues and pose relevant, thought-provoking questions.


As long as people have communicated, “fake news” has circulated with real news.

Misinformation is incorrect information distributed by those who believe it is true. Fake news is false information that people disseminate intentionally, knowing it is untrue, in order to deceive others or cause harm. Both circulate in abundance. When legitimate media outlets make a mistake, they correct themselves with a statement or retraction. The skill with which fake news purveyors deceive readers, listeners and viewers resists anyone’s attempts to set the record straight. This difference between misinformation and false information is a vital distinction.

Fake news is nothing new. Whether it’s rumors and gossip spread by word of mouth, yellow journalism, satire, hoaxes or tabloids, people have long used deliberate untruths for entertainment, profit, persuasion and provocation. Benjamin Franklin was famous for his 18th-century hoaxes and satires. Some journalists deliberately turned voters against Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 election by stoking fears of miscegenation, a word they invented to describe the mixing ...

About the Authors

Communications and media professors Melissa Zimdars (author of Watching Our Weights) and Kembrew McLeod (author of Cutting Across Media, Creative License and other titles) compiled and contributed to this collection for the Information Policy Series. Contributors: Mark Andrejevic, Benjamin Burroughs, Nicholas Bowman, Mark Brewin, Elizabeth Cohen, Colin Doty, Dan Faltesek, Johan Farkas, Cherian George, Tarleton Gillespie, Dawn R. Gilpin, Gina Giotta, Theodore Glasser, Amanda Ann Klein, Paul Levinson, Adrienne Massanari, Sophia A. McClennen, Kembrew McLeod, Panagiotis Takis Metaxas, Paul Mihailidis, Benjamin Peters, Whitney Phillips, Victor Pickard, Danielle Polage, Stephanie Ricker Schulte, Leslie-Jean Thornton, Anita Varma, Claire Wardle, Melissa Zimdars and Sheng Zou.

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