Fake News: A Definition

Gelfert, Axel
Informal Logic

Despite being a new term, ‘fake news’ has evolved rapidly. This paper argues that it should be reserved for cases of deliberate presentation of (typically) false or misleading claims as news, where these are misleading by design. The phrase ‘by design’ here refers to systemic features of the design of the sources and channels by which fake news propagates and, thereby, manipulates the audience’s cognitive processes. This prospective definition is then tested: first, by contrasting fake news with other forms of public disinformation; second, by considering whether it helps pinpoint conditions for the (recent) proliferation of fake news.