Pew research polls report 62 percent of U.S. adults get news on social media (Gottfried and Shearer, 2016). In a December poll, 64 percent of U.S. adults said that “made-up news” has caused a “great deal of confusion” about the facts of current events (Barthel et al., 2016). Fabricated stories in social media, ranging from deliberate propaganda to hoaxes and satire, contributes to this confusion in addition to having serious effects on global stability. In this work we build predictive models to classify 130 thousand news posts as suspicious or verified, and predict four sub-types of suspicious news – satire, hoaxes, clickbait and propaganda. We show that neural network models trained on tweet content and social network interactions outperform lexical models. Unlike previous work on deception detection, we find that adding syntax and grammar features to our models does not improve performance. Incorporating linguistic features improves classification results, however, social interaction features are most informative for finer-grained separation between four types of suspicious news posts.
We present an analytic study on the language of news media in the context of political fact-checking and fake news detection. We compare the language of real news with that of satire, hoaxes, and propaganda to find linguistic characteristics of untrustworthy text. To probe the feasibility of automatic political fact-checking, we also present a case study based on PolitiFact.com using their factuality judgments on a 6-point scale. Experiments show that while media fact-checking remains to be an open research question, stylistic cues can help determine the truthfulness of text.