Discerning Disinformation Through Design: Exploring Fake News Website Design Patterns


The onset of emerging technologies in a fast-changing media landscape has led to media sources becoming more complex; leading to their capacity to create intricacies for the public's perceptions of truth. In the Philippines, disinformation runs rampant through fake news websites, peaking during the 2016 Presidential elections. While current fake news detection methods range from source checking to content analysis, visual communication scholars note that design plays a role in signifying credibility, as people tend to first notice visual cues. Using Tandoc et al.'s fake news typology, juxtaposed with visual design cues (e.g. logo, typography, photography, layout) and website credibility elements, this paper visually analyzes twenty-three Philippine fake news websites to glean visual design patterns. From a qualitative perspective, the presence and/or absence of visual design cues and elements, including aesthetic treatments, are analyzed. Findings verify the presence of visual design patterns across all types of fake news websites, often characterized by low-aesthetic treatments. More notably, individual typologies (e.g. parody, fabrication, propaganda) exhibit unique visual design patterns indicative of the level of facticity and intention to deceive; which affects how visual design elements are crafted. While literature suggests the possibility of fake news providers mimicking visual design cues of legitimate news organizations, findings show an apparent disregard to overall visual quality, indicative of an absence of a legitimate organization behind such websites where visual design takes a back seat to other goals. This paper concludes that the gleaned visual design patterns may be used to discern disinformation from a visual communication standpoint.

Author Information
Joaquin Miguel Ruiz, De La Salle University, The Philippines

Paper Information
Conference: MediAsia2018
Stream: Visual Communication

This paper is part of the MediAsia2018 Conference Proceedings (View)
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