The facts on fake news

False advertisement with famous people in it, disinformation about the US presidential elections, … The internet is full of messages that turn out to be not entirely true. In other words: fake news. Fake news can influence our thoughts and behaviour and may cause us to lose faith in journalism, the government or science. That’s why it’s important to be able to understand and recognise fake news. This dossier helps you with that.

Questions? Contact our experts Bert Pieters and Zara Momerency.

Also have a look at our dossiers on news, conspiracy theories and propaganda.

What is fake news?

The term ‘fake news’ is commonly used to designate any form of incorrect information that is aimed at misleading people for political reasons (eg. winning votes) or commercial ones (eg. making money through false advertisement). Fake news is a sort of umbrella term, because in reality there is plenty of misleading information on the internet that doesn’t classify as ‘news’. That’s why scientists and experts prefer the term ‘disinformation’. 

  • Fake news vs. disinformation

How does fake news differ from disinformation? And what are 5 typical features of fake news? Find the answers here.

What is fake news?

  • 9 types of misleading information

What other types of misleading information exist besides fake news? Discover 9 types of information to be wary about.

Tell me about it

“Philosopher Hannah Arendt once said: when people no longer know what is and isn’t true, you can make them believe anything. We have to avoid a situation where people no longer trust society and their fellow citizens at all cost.”
Prof. dr. Ike Picone

3 frequently asked questions about fake news

Fake news sells. If you read news articles with shocking titles on social media, you’re more likely to click on them. All those clicks can bring in a lot of advertisement revenue for websites. But fake news is also used to sell products, for example the ultimate cure for Covid-19 or a product that a famous person is supposedly wild about. People may also create fake news for political or ideological reasons, for example by spreading lies about their rivals.

‘Thanks’ to social media, fake news easily goes viral. Not only because people like or share these messages on their timelines, but also because of the algorithms behind social media. These algorithms try to predict which posts you will find interesting based on previous search queries, preferences and general surfing behaviour. If you have read fake news before, the algorithm is likely to serve you more of the same on your feed. The algorithm also pulls posts with lots of likes or reactions to the top of your feed. That way, one fake news article can easily land on many people’s feeds at the same time.

It’s a fallacy to think that only stupid people are susceptible to fake news. Anyone can fall for a fake news article. That’s because creators of fake news tend to use a number of sneaky tricks to make their message seem more credible. These tricks tend to have a lot in common with well-known propaganda techniques that have proven their effectiveness throughout the years. So you really don’t have to be ashamed if you’ve ever fallen for fake news. By understanding how to recognise fake news you can avoid falling victim to it again.

Recognising fake news

Research shows that youngsters have trouble recognising fake news. They themselves indicate that they could use some adult help. But even adults often struggle to spot fake news. These tips for recognising fake news are a great starting point for young and old.

Fake news and corona

The corona pandemic was a goldmine for fake news creators. Before long, the wildest theories about the virus ran rampant online. Discover how and why fake news could thrive in times of corona. Read more

Combating fake news

An often-heard question about fake news is: who should be responsible for doing something about it? The government? Social media companies? Journalists? The answer is simple: we can only keep the spread of fake news under control if everyone plays their part.

  • How can we stop fake news?

Who can take action in the battle against fake news? And what should we avoid? Discover how we can stop fake news together.

Let’s do this

  • The role of parents and teachers

Parents and teachers play a crucial part: they can help youngsters learn to recognise fake news. But what’s the best approach?

How you can help

Fake news: 6 important terms

Fake news is an internet phenomenon, which involves all sorts of complex terminology. Do you know what algorithms, deepfakes and echo chambers are? If not, no problem: discover 6 terms you should know about and how they are linked to fake news.

Research on fake news


of the Flemish population

today trusts news media (Digital News report 2020)

1 in 5


can’t explain what fake news is exactly (Digital News Report 2020).


of youngsters

read news via social media every day, where fake news can spread quickly. Read more.

Interesting research

  • Nieuwsbarometer

Artevelde research into the news literacy of young people between 12 and 26 years old, focused on fake news.

  • Digital News Report 

Yearly study into the news experience and trust in news media of users from various countries and regions.

  • Apestaartjaren

Research into news and media usage by children and youngsters from 6 to 18 years old in Flanders.

Videos about fake news

Learn more

  • News in the Classroom

How do you provide education about news? Find tips, didactic materials and more.

  • StampMedia

StampMedia is an organisation that bridges the gap between youngsters and news.

  • Djapo

Djapo supports teachers with didactic materials and webinars around various themes, including current affairs.


Via WATWAT youngsters can find trustworthy answers to all sorts of questions about news.

  • Factcheck.Vlaanderen

Read something on the internet? Discover whether it’s true on Factcheck.Vlaanderen.

  • Kruit

Kruit organises online and offline events about various themes related to world citizenship education.

  • CritiCat

CritiCat teaches children to uncover fake news through stories, workshops and more.