Don't Be Fooled! A Guide to Fake News Websites

Satire is a venerable form of social commentary that uses humor to ridicule human vices and follies. The Internet is rife with it, especially news satire, or fake news, in which fictionalized accounts of current events are presented in mock-journalistic style to lampoon politicians, celebrities, and social mores.

Satire is only effective if people recognize it as such, however, and therein lies a major pitfall of publishing fake news on the Internet. Users tend to skim texts instead of reading them, missing important clues and disclaimers. The mechanics of social sharing obscure the origin and aim of viral content, increasing the likelihood that fiction will be mistaken for, or purposely misrepresented as, fact.

Below is a checklist of the most popular fake news sites on the web. Share as needed!

1
The Borowitz Report

Andy Borowitz
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The New Yorker

Andy Borowitz is a genuinely funny humorist and best-selling author whose satirical news column, The Borowitz Report, debuted in 2001 and is currently hosted by NewYorker.com. Most of his columns are literally too hilarious to be believed, yet some people insist on doing so.

2
Call The Cops

Call The Cops
http://www.callthecops.net/category/police-news/

Call The Cops bills itself as "America's 27th most trusted source for public safety news." Articles satirize law enforcement, firefighting, and emergency medical work. "Stories posted here are not real and you should not assume them to have any basis in any real fact," states the site disclaimer. "Heck we tend to leave in spelling and grammer errors just to prove we is not the professional media."

3
The Daily Currant

DailyCurrant.com

About The Daily Currant:
Q. Are your news stories real?
A. No. Our stories are purely fictional. However they are meant to address real-world issues through satire and often refer and link to real events happening in the world.

4
Empire News

Empire News
EmpireNews.net

This spin-off of the Empire Sports website (see next entry below) brings a similar warped sensibility and star-struck emphasis to general "news" of the day. Empire News describes itself as a "satirical and entertainment website." Don't believe anything you read there.

5
Empire Sports

Empire Sports
EmpireSports.co
This site specializes in lampooning sports and sports celebrities. It originally carried no satire disclaimer per se, but the phrase "News Satire" was visible on the top navigation bar of every page. With headlines like "Dog Killing Debuts As New Sport In 2014 Winter Olympics," there's no mistaking this site's content for actual news.

6
Free Wood Post

Free Wood Post
FreeWoodPost.com

Free Wood Post offers social and political spoofs from a liberal point of view, mercilessly skewering right-wing politics and politicians, as well as the occasional out-of-control sports figure or self-indulgent Hollywood celebrity. From its disclaimer page: "Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental."

7
Global Associated News (MediaFetcher.com)

Media Fetcher
MediaFetcher.com

This site isn't really satirical, nor is it particularly funny. Fake news stories with a Global Associated News masthead are generated by ordinary folks via the prank website FakeAWish.com. Fill in a celebrity's name, and out pops a boilerplate article claiming he or she was maimed or killed in some horrific accident. Strange as it seems, these hoaxes consistently fool people. A lot of people.

8
Huzlers

Huzlers
Huzlers.com

"About Us: Huzlers.com is a combination of real shocking news and satire news to keep its visitors in a state of disbelief." (If that statement makes sense to you, there's a chance you'll actually find this fake news site funny and entertaining. Otherwise, I doubt it.) I have yet to see anything that qualifies as "real news" anywhere on the site.

9
The Lapine

The Lapine
TheLapine.ca

This Canada-centric site also lampoons U.S. and world events, and, truth be told, just about everything else that can possibly be made fun of. "The Lapine is all about poking people and things that deserve to be poked," reads the site's self-description. A recent article was entitled "Top 3 Cuss Words on Twitter." Not biting social commentary, exactly, but often entertaining.

10
MediaMass

MediaMass
Mediamass.net

This site credits itself with doing "media criticism through satire," though its articles are neither pithy nor funny. To date, MediaMass remains best known for running boilerplate stories pre-emptively dismissing celebrity death reports as hoaxes, even when those reports have been accurate. This is the very opposite of a reliable source.

11
National Report

National Report
NationalReport.net

National Report burst on the scene in 2013 with a take-no-prisoners approach to political satire. Its content seems calculated more to push readers' buttons than to make them laugh, which may explain why it's often mistaken for real news by the very folks whose views it aims to skewer. Fortunately, as of Feb. 2014 NationalReport.net had reinstated its now-you-see-it-now-you-don't disclaimer page identifying the site as satirical. Don't be fooled!

12
NewsWatch33

NewsWatch33
NewsWatch33.com

Here's another site that takes a no-holds-barred approach to making up the news. Its disclaimer page states that some of site's content is satirical, but I've found nothing on it that looks like actual news. Many of the articles, in fact, appear to based on long-debunked Internet rumors and hoaxes. Don't be tempted to take this site seriously.

13
The Onion

The Onion
TheOnion.com
The Onion was founded as a weekly satirical newspaper in 1988, billing itself from day one as "America's Finest News Source." The web version, TheOnion.com, was launched in 1996 and, unlike many of its imitators, remains consistently incisive and hilarious. That The Onion is America's finest satirical news source is beyond doubt.

14
The Racket Report

The Racket Report
TheRacketReport.com

"Reporting what the mainstream media won't tell you," reads the tagline of this website — and for good reason. The Racket Report's articles "may or may not use real names, always a semi real and/or mostly, or substantially, fictitious ways," says its About Us page. "That means some stories on this website are fictitious." Some stories? I have looked in vain for any non-fictitious content on the site. There is none.

15
The Spoof

The Spoof
TheSpoof.com

This site's owners aren't coy about what they're up to. "All items on this website are fictitious," says the disclaimer on every page. With a name like "The Spoof," you'd think there could be no doubt, but this is, after all, the Internet. Stories here are 100% reader-submitted and range from laugh-out-loud funny to just plain dumb.

16
Weekly World News

Weekly World News
WeeklyWorldNews.com
Originally a supermarket tabloid best known for covering Elvis sightings, alien abductions, Nostradamus prophecies and the like, Weekly World News ceased to exist as a print publication in 2007 but lives on thanks to the Internet, still covering Elvis sightings, alien abductions, and Nostradamus prophecies. Why mess with a winning formula?

17
World News Daily Report

World News Daily Report
WorldNewsDailyReport.com

Noteworthy for such preposterous headlines as "Dead Cow Brought Back to Life by Lightning" and "Kentucky Man Sentenced to 235,451 Years in Jail," this tabloid-style site emphasizes the "faux" in faux journalism. The disclaimer page states: "All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people –  are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle." Amen.