One of the key aims of Life Orientation is to develop critical thinkers. In today’s world, this skill is more important than ever when it comes to the information we consume and our ability to determine whether it is true or not. On the 3rd of May we observe World Press Freedom Day, a day that celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom.1 While press freedom is a cornerstone of democracy, unfortunately, not all sources of information are trustworthy and not all news is accurate. Discerning what is accurate has become increasingly complex and increasingly important.


  • ‘Fake news’ is a term that gained popularity during the Donald Trump campaign, and while it is often used interchangeably with ‘false information’, the term ‘false information’ is preferable. ‘Fake news’ tends to be associated with political stories whereas ‘false information’ covers a broader range of misinformation and disinformation.
  • Misinformation is false information that is spread unintentionally.

Disinformation is “false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumours) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.”


In the past, false news stories were created to generate advertising income. One of the more well-known examples dates back to the 2016 US election campaign. Teenagers from a small city in Macedonia made fake news websites and created sensationalist stories to earn cash from advertising.3 Since then, Google as well as social media platforms have taken steps to combat the spread of false news.
Besides income, false news has also been used to manipulate public opinion, spread propaganda and influence politics. It is often seen in the run-up to elections.


False information can be difficult to spot, but if something sounds too good or too bad to be true, it often is. Trust your instincts and double check the information. Also, if something causes you to have an emotional response, consider this a red flag. False information often has a sensationalist quality to it.


The video clip below from Africa Check provides important pointers.

When In Doubt, Check It Out: Stopping The Spread Of False Information (2:28)


Identify the difference between disinformation and misinformation in the video clip ‘When in doubt, check it out’. Ask scholars to write down their own definitions for these terms and discuss the harm that could be caused by these different iterations of false information.


Fact-checking can help us to distinguish between accurate and false information. Here are some practical steps you can take to check facts:

  1. Use reliable sources: Choose established news organisations, academic institutions, or government agencies over blogs or social media posts.
  2. Check that the site is governed by the media regulatory bodies in a country. In South Africa, the media regulatory bodies are The Press Council of South Africa and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA). At the bottom of a website you might find something about how the publication is governed or subscribed to the code of conduct set out by these regulatory bodies. This means they are credible.
  3. Check multiple sources: Even when using reliable sources, check multiple sources to ensure accuracy and to rule out inconsistencies or biases.
  4. Use fact-checking websites: Websites like and verify claims through checking primary sources and interviewing experts.
  5. Verify primary sources: Primary sources are often a scientific study, government report, or interview. Check that the information has not been used out of context.
  6. Be sceptical: Approach all information with a healthy dose of scepticism!
  7. Consult experts: If you are trying to verify technical or scientific information, it can be helpful to consult with experts in the field.
  8. Be aware of confirmation bias: Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs or biases. Seek out information from a variety of sources and be open to changing your mind based on new information.
  9. How do you feel: A real news article is not supposed to scare you, it is just supposed to give you the facts. If you feel overly angry or scared when reading something, it is most likely false information.


Recent advances in technology have resulted in many easy-to-use image manipulation tools that produce very credible results. It is, however, possible to work out whether an image has been tampered with.

How To Verify Images And Videos (4.28)


Is false information that big a deal? Consider the possible impact that false information could have on individuals and society as a whole. Here are a few ideas to get you started. False information:

  • Can give us incorrect information which we base our decisions on
  • Can put us in physical danger if we act on the false information
  • Can cause panic and confusion

Add your own here.

Africa Check

Africa Check is Africa’s first independent fact-checking organisation and verifies the accuracy of claims by using publicly available data and consulting experts. Their bank of resources includes tipsheets and how-to videos.

Africa Check: Fact Checking Tips


This World Press Freedom Day, we recognise the right of journalists to report the news freely and the responsibility that journalists have to report accurately. What’s more, we recognise that the content that is published today comes not only from credible sources, but also from all those who wish to publish content. As such, we play a role in ensuring that we neither create nor share false information.

Press freedom is important. Press freedom is the right to report news without being controlled by the government.4 It enables people to access a wide range of information and ideas, to hold those in power accountable, and to express opinions and ideas freely without fear of persecution.

If you are using the Achieve Careers LO Programme, the following information and activities are recommended:

  • GR 10 LO Manual – Section 3 Skills Development (p. 42)
  • GR 12 CAPS – Section 3 Democracy and Human Rights (p. 24)
  • Teacher’s Flash Drive – LO Resources – folder on Critical Thinking
Share This Post
This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Please accept to continue or refer to Terms of Use here.