Fake news is information that is clearly and demonstrably fabricated and that has been packaged and distributed to appear as legitimate news. Fake news refers to a specific piece of information -- it does not refer to any particular type of news outlet or individual.
How other forms of misinformation are weaponized into fake news
Fake News: Satire: when deceptively packaged as a legitimate news story. Propaganda: when containing fabrications and packaged as a legitimate news story. Misleading or out of context information: when also serving as support for fabrications. Conspiracy theory: when packaged as a legitimate news story. Clickbait: when containing fabrications and packaged as a legitimate news story.
Why Should I Care?
Why should you care about whether or not your news is real or fake?
You deserve the truth. You are smart enough to make up your own mind - as long as you have the real facts in front of you. You have every right to be insulted when you read fake news, because you are in essence being treated like an idiot.
Fake news destroys your credibility. If your arguments are built on bad information, it will be much more difficult for people to believe you in the future.
Fake news can hurt you, and a lot of other people. Purveyors of fake and misleading medical advice like Mercola.com and NaturalNews.com help perpetuate myths like HIV and AIDS aren't related, or that vaccines cause autism. These sites are heavily visited and their lies are dangerous.
Real news can benefit you. If you want to buy stock in a company, you want to read accurate articles about that company so you can invest wisely. If you are planning on voting in an election, you want to read as much good information on a candidate so you can vote for the person who best represents your ideas and beliefs. Fake news will not help you make money or make the world a better place, but real news can.
Propaganda: Misleading or highly biased information that is specifically designed to confirm or promote a particular ideological viewpoint
Clickbait: articles that feature headlines designed to get people to click on them, often by presenting a misleading or warped sense of what the post is about. (This does not necessarily constitute that the article is fake, but fake news often uses a clickbait format.)
Conspiracy Theory: an explanation or interpretation of events that is based on questionable or nonexistent evidence of a supposed "secret plan" by a group to obscure events.
Satire: writing or art designed to make social commentary based on mockery or imitation of real-life events or actors. (Some fake news sites claim to be satirists bu do not advertise themselves as satire.)
Misleading or Out-of-Context Information: this kind of information does not on its own constitute fake news as it is not wholly fabricated and it can exist within a news report that is based on actual events that occurred, but widely shared stories that contain misinformation can feed the larger ecosystem by creating a friendly audience for fabrications.