Our need to feel connected to others and to stay informed has meant that news consumption has grown rapidly over the last decade. We check our social media feeds constantly, we watch or read the news obsessively and we are surrounded by advertising and propaganda. Everybody reports, rehashes, retweets, likes, comments on, and distributes news items and yet we find ourselves craving more.

Even more concerning is that fake news can “spread 10 times faster than legitimate news stories.”1 Researchers have also found that false news not only spreads faster than true stories, but has a much wider reach.

As the focus of this year’s IEB CAT is fake news and the 3rd May is World Press Freedom day, we thought we should look at what fake news is in a little more detail.



Fake news, also known as ‘false information’, is false news stories, often of a sensational nature, created to be widely shared for the purpose of generating advertising revenue via web traffic or discrediting a public figure, political movement, company, etc.2

It is created to influence public opinion on an issue or an election or perhaps to make money and it is often used as clickbait for online users or to harm someone’s reputation.

Social media has changed the dynamics of news owing to the sheer volume of information available at our fingertips. When one sees an interesting story, there is an immediate urge to share it with someone else. This fuels the spread of fake news without us realising that we are part of the problem.

In order to spot fake news, students need to understand what real news looks and sounds like. If we do not start to differentiate between what is real and what is fake, we will be more easily fooled and manipulated by the whims of others.

Just as good eating requires a healthy diet, good news consumption also requires certain practices. We need to develop critical thinking skills in order to judge the reliability and credibility of certain information in whatever form we find it.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, amongst others, offers useful tips for how to spot fake news. See the information below:3

Image credit: Info taken from IFLA.


The increased availability and use of digital devices have made it easier for people to access and share information, including fake news. Listed below are some 2023 statistics regarding digital devices and services in South Africa.

There were 43.48 million Internet users in South Africa at the start of 2023, when Internet penetration stood at 72.3 percent.
South Africa was home to 25.80 million social media users in January 2023, equating to 42.9 percent of the total population.
A total of 112.7 million cellular mobile connections were active in South Africa in early 2023, with this figure equivalent to 187.4 percent of the total population.

Activity #1: Video and Questions
Watch the video clip labelled ‘Episode 2: Why do we fall for fake news?’ in the link below and then ask students to answer the questions that follow.

  • Why is fake news so popular?
  • What are some of the harmful effects of technology?
  • How can headlines and tweets be misleading?
  • Why do we engage with fake news?

On which human characteristics does fake news rely?

Activity #2: Fact Checking
Follow the link below and read the article, ‘Fake or Real? How to Self-Check the News and Get the Facts’.

Fake Or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts

Ask students to make a list of the ways in which the article suggests that they can do their own fact checking.

Activity #3: Group Discussion
Ask students to find one example of a fake news story and one example of a real news story. Place students in groups and hand out the news stories in a random manner. Allow time for groups to read and discuss the articles given to them. Ask them to differentiate between the real news stories and the fake stories. Discuss their findings and how they were able to differentiate between real news and fake news.


Students can do their own interactive test to see whether they can spot fake news. To do so, go to ‘Episode 6: Can You Spot Fake News?’ in the link below:

The Digital Literacy Series: Fake News

If you are using the Achieve Careers English HL 2023 Programme, information on fake news and media literacy may be found in the Grade 10 ENG HL manual on pp. 28-37.

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