Countering Fake News

August 3, 2020

The well-known American author, Mark Twain was in London in May 1897 and rumours reached the United States that he was very ill and he had died. Mark Twain wrote a letter to a journalist by the name of Frank Marshall White who asked about his health:


“The report of my death was an exaggeration.”


In fact, a newspaper in the US even printed an obituary.


We have received through the social media at one time or another about the death of a celebrity like Mark Twain which turned out to be untrue or what we call fake news. Not only have we received fake news, we also become transmitters of fake news by forwarding them to others until they become viral.


The Ethical Journalism Network defines fake news as “information deliberately fabricated and published with the intention to deceive and mislead others into believing falsehoods or doubting verifiable facts.”


Fake news provide mis-information – that is information that is false, but not created with the intention of causing harm. Dis-information is much more serious – that is information that is false and deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organization or country. While both mis-information and dis-information are false and damaging, mal-information which is based on reality can be used to inflict harm on a person, organization or country.


The question is: Why are people so gullible to fake news?


Psychologists, Dr. Penny Cook and Dr. Rand, (“Why Do People Fall for Fake News”, New York Times, January 19, 2019) mentioned “the problem is that we often fail to exercise our critical faculties: that is, we’re mentally lazy.” We do not think critically enough about the information we encounter. It is easy to become intellectually lazy. Therefore, we need to keep our critical thinking skills sharp in our personal and professional lives.


So when you receive fake news and before you forward them to others, think critically. We are accountable for our actions.


An interesting article below from Forbes will be invaluable to you to maintain critical thinking in the modern work of new media.


Dr. CK Khoo provides Critical Thinking Skills workshops. His next Critical Thinking Skills workshop is on September 10-11, 2020. To register, kindly contact: or go to:




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