Dr Sander van der Linden, Cambridge University | Fake News

Dr Sander van der Linden works at Cambridge University and came up with a way of stopping fake news from having an effect. It is called a 'fake news vaccine'. You will have seen him on the video you watched at the beginning of the issue.

Dear Burnet News Club Members!

Thank you for your very insightful questions. I will try to answer them below:

If fake news and real news are being reported by the same ‘reputable’ sources, how can we ever know the difference?

From: Asguardian Reporter | Malcolm Arnold Academy

Dear Asguardian Reporter, this is a good question. But is it really true that fake and real news are being reported by the same “reputable” sources?

Some research shows that it is actually specific news outlets that are reporting more fake news than others. But how can you know which one to trust? Well, one idea is to use online rating tools to help us. For example,media bias fact check tells you whether a particular media outlet often reports accurate facts or fake/biased news. Give it a try! For example, when you type in the “BBC”, you’ll find that the BBC has very high factual accuracy, but is also slightly more left-wing. In contrast, the Daily Mail has a mixed record of reporting facts and an extreme right-wing political bias. The Economist is rated “least biased” with high factual reporting!

So ask yourself this when judging news outlets; 1) Is the news outlet reliable and accurate? And 2) in what way might they try to influence me politically?

Why can’t the local government make sure that before a post goes up it is not fake?

From: Tazmanian Devil | Grace Academy Coventry

Dear Tazmanian Devil, this is a very difficult question with no easy answer. The truth of the matter is that having the government regulate news can be very tricky business. In most Democratic countries, we generally have independent media: meaning that the government cannot control what the media reports on. Imagine if the government was in control of the media, but the government did not have our best interest in mind? In other words, they could try to make sure that before a post goes up, it is not fake, but with this power also comes the ability to prevent a post from going up when the story says something the government simply doesn’t like — even when it’s true.

For example, in certain countries, the government is in charge of the media and you can go to jail for reporting news that contradicts the government. The other complication is more practical in that it is not always possible to check whether a particular story is “fake”. For this reason, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur for the Protection of the Freedom of Speech (this is a person appointed to help protect human rights) has recommended that governments not regulate fake news.


"When news organisations are critical of you (as they are of Donald Trump), you should not call them “fake news”, as this will only confuse people." 

Dr Sander van der Linden, Cambridge University

How does Dr Sander Van Der Linden think fake news be used for good?

From: RavenTheRauthor | Malcolm Arnold Academy

Dear RavenTheRauthor, this is an interesting question!

Unfortunately, I do not think that fake news can be used for good. The main reason being that the motivations for spreading fake news are often negative. For example, people might want to influence you for political purposes, or confuse or mislead you, or even make money off of you. Because fake news often involves lying and harming our trust in media, I do not see many good sides to it.

An exception may be innocent fake news stories, such as that of a cute cat, which might make people laugh! In other words, sometimes, some innocent and harmless fake news stories can be fun for people.

Some fake news websites are for entertainment, but some are advertisements. So how will we know which is which?

From: Truthfull Blogger 123 | Willowtown Primary School

Dear Truthfull blogger, this is a nice follow-up question to the idea that fake news can sometimes be entertaining, whereas, at other times, they are ads, so how can we really tell? If you are unsure, google the news website to find out more about it! One hint is that many fake news websites’ URLs end in “.co”. But even better, Wikipedia has devised a list of fake news website that are not meant for entertainment, so if you’re in doubt, cross-check the website with this list on Wikipedia!  

I agree with Donald Trump because he doesn’t trust fake news as he knows the real news (being President of America) but he knows that fake news is harming the citizens of America.

From: ImaginativeJournalist | John Ruskin Primary School

Dear ImaginativeJournalist, unfortunately, Donald Trump does not always know the real news. Being President of America does not mean that you know the truth!

Donald Trump has publicly lied to the American people, and to the world, many times. In fact, Donald Trump has spread fake news himself. Some people believe that Donald Trump is harming the citizens of America because he is calling the real news, “fake news”. For example, he has called the “BBC” fake news, but many reports have found that the BBC is very reliable and accurate in news reporting. When news organisations are critical of you (as they are of Donald Trump), you should not call them “fake news”, as this will only confuse people.


  1. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Fake news
    Positive: Fake news can be good sometimes. It can bring smiles to the people’s faces that have big frowns. There could be a story about a dancing kitty or a piano-playing hamster. Fake news isn’t that bad on the positive side.

    Negative: On the other hand, fake news can be dangerous and unfair. It can affect the way people vote in elections by thing being said about the people. It can also be used for money. It can change your opinion in something that is true.

    Yellow Raven

  2. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Do you think we should take action ?

    I personally feel that we should take action and by we I mean the government .It should be illegal to put up fake news because it’s not fair to the ones who get slandered For example Muslims ( I’m a Muslim) and I’ve heard many things like us being terrorists and it’s not true most of the time .It’s also not fair to the ones who read it they will get blamed for believing it .My opinion is that fake news is giving people trust issues and they won’t be able to trust any news WHICH IS NOT FAIR ! sometimes people put up fake news for money ,they’re influenced, or forced and if they’re forced to it’s not their fault. This is why the government should check or make a law against it so it can be stopped.



  3. William Patten Primary School William Patten Primary School

    Are we really going to let Fake news take power over us? We are a strong and healthy nation and we can fight fake news!