This is not fake news: the first use of the phrase “fake news” wasn’t during the 2016 presidential election campaign, or the 2008 campaign, or 1996, or even during 1940s WWII propaganda. It goes back much further.

“Fake news appears to have begun seeing general use at the end of the 19th century,” according to Merriam Webster, citing several references to “fake news” in newspapers from that era.

Secretary Brunnell Declares Fake News About His People is Being Telegraphed Over the Country.” –Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, 7 Jun. 1890.

The public taste is not really vitiated and it does not in its desire for ‘news’ absolutely crave for distortions of facts and enlargements of incidents; and it certainly has no genuine appetite for ‘fake news’ and ‘special fiend’ decoctions such as were served up by a local syndicate a year or two ago. –The Buffalo Commercial, 2 May 1891.

Fast forward a century later, when in 2009 conservative activists orchestrated a hidden camera sting to reveal suspected corruption in the nationwide community organization ACORN. Investigators eventually discovered the published videos had been edited for damaging effect. The ensuing media frenzy, documented by the Independent Lens film ACORN and the Firestorm, foreshadowed the spread of fake news to come.

Throughout 2017, as example after example emerged of bad faith actors pumping false stories into social media algorithms for clicks, profit, and political gain, the idea of “fake news” infused the public consciousness. Recently Facebook announced it would begin ranking news sources in its feed based on trustworthiness.

No matter what measures tech and media organizations take to restore trust, media consumption will always require a healthy dose of skepticism.

To find out how good you are at spotting fake news, take the fake news quiz.


Aside from resources linked within the quiz, here are more resources used and referenced:

Politifact Guide

Snopes: Fake News Sites

Washington Post: Fake News Harder to Spot Than Most Believe

Common Sense Media: How to Spot Fake News and Teach Kids to Be Media Savv

Snopes: Fake News

Quiz photo by Elijah O’Donell on Unsplash