LECI1 – Fake News and the Changing Landscape of Online Media

Course outline

  • The shifting sands of online information in a world of fakes: a review of technical developments and new trends as they relate to online journalism and communication (for ex. the rise of social networks and the alternative media, the increasing mistrust towards the mainstream media, the use of automated bots in small and large scale disinformation and propaganda campaigns, etc.)
  • Key concepts & technical jargon (cloud, big data, Internet of things, algorithms, bots, etc.)
  • Making sense of the data and information tsunami
    • The ‘5 V’ information challenge : volume, velocity, variety, veracity, visibility
    • Essential skills for journalists and communication professionals in the digital age
  • Mainstream versus Alternative Media: what is the difference and what truly matters
  • What is News : a three-part test to evaluate the news value and credibility of a ‘story’ (verification, independance, accountability)
  • What are Fake News
    • Classifying fake news : satirical, misleading & hyper partisan information, hoaxes.
    • Recent case studies with fake stories, photos, videos, etc.
  • What triggers fake news production
    • Money, small and large scale disinformation and propaganda efforts, hoaxes
    • Case studies in European and foreign news
  • What motivates people to share fake news on social media
  • The growing distrust in mainstream media in the post-truth era: how did we end up here?
    • Poor quality information
    • Information overload
    • Hyper partisan and alternative media
    • Infotainment and tabloid-style news coverage: the blurring of lines between journalism and entertainment
    • Facebook, Twitter, YouTube: how we get trapped in echo chambers by algorithms, automated bots and the human nature (confirmation bias, etc.)
    • Sponsored contents, clickbaits and journalism: the increasingly blurred lines between information and publicity.

Course Objectives

This course is closely interlinked with the ‘Comment interviewer une machine’ course. It aims to…

  • develop an understanding of current trends in online journalism and information;
  • sow doubt, caution and critical thinking regarding online content;
  • put into practice the basic search and verification skills learned in the ‘Comment interviewer une machine’ course.


Lecture with numerous video excerpts, case studies, group discussions and practical exercises. Participants may have to do some preparation work between classes, such as watching videos and reading background materials.

Expected results

Course participants will…

  • demonstrate a clear understanding of new trends and techniques as they relate to the deep changes in the fields of online journalism and communication;
  • be able to describe what is behind the hype regarding so-called fake news, what different types of contents this new term refers to, who produces those contents, what their motivations are and what triggers their sharing by social media users;
  • be able to follow a simple methodology to evaluate the source and credibility of a news story, as well as to differentiate between real and fake news.