Did you hear the Queen confirmed she’s immortal?

Or that the Dalai Lama’s playing a deep house set at Glastonbury this year?

If you have, you’ve probably been a victim of satirical news websites. Spreading viral news stories which are completely made up, they take articles from leading news organisations like CNN, Fox News and the BBC and turn them into spoof versions.

It’s sometimes hard to know what to trust when it comes to reading articles online. A lot of people have lost faith in journalism over the years due to biased coverage or because of reports riddled with lies and mistakes.

As a reaction to this, satirical websites such as The Daily Mash, The Onion and Wunderground are rapidly filling up people’s news feeds with made-up rumours and fake stories – all of which are backed by imaginary statistics and fabricated quotes. This kind of ‘anti-journalism’ is gaining popularity as people are starting to prefer well-written fake articles rather than biased hard news.

When Fox News‘ so-called “terror expert” Steve Emerson declared that Birmingham, UK is “a totally Muslim” city, and a place “where sharia courts were set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where the police don’t go in” there was a huge satirical backlash to his video report.

People started posting up images with the hashtag #FoxNewsFacts, mocking the “terror expert” and writing sarcastic comments about the report. The Daily Mash responded to this by releasing an article entitled Birmingham now 100 per cent Klingon

Emerson has now apologised for his “terrible error” but he’s still feeling the repercussions from the video as the hashtag is still going strong:

 

Satirical websites are fast becoming a widespread source of spoof-journalism, perpetuating rumours and fake news in response to the loss of faith in the major news networks and corporate business organisations.

The Yes Men were some of the first to expose corporate misconduct and pretend to be business officials for the benefit of giving the world some good news. This politically-engaged duo stage elaborate hoaxes, taking it upon themselves to represent companies who’ve tried to cover up their mistakes and claim there’s no further action to be taken.

Setting up fake websites claiming to be linked to organisations like Dow Chemicals, The World Trade Organisation and ExxonMobil, The Yes Men have inspired many other fake websites to be created over the last six years.

Their 2009 documentary The Yes Men Fix The World is an important example of a reaction against the way news often says how nothing can be done about the world, and how the government and major businesses aren’t willing to right their wrongs.

In 2008, The Yes Men published 80,000 copies of a fake edition of The New York Times and distributed them around New York.

The newspaper was an exact replica of a normal edition of the The New York Times except with a twist – all of the articles were positive.

Headlines such as Iraq War Ends and Nation Sets Its Sights On Building Sane Economy had New Yorkers in disbelief and full of joy that everything in the world had been rectified.

The slogan for the edition was “All the News We Hope to Print” and it caused angry staff members of the real The New York Times to head to the streets and tell people it was fake.

The most famous and longest-running spoof-news website is unarguably The Onion. Since 1988 it’s been publishing satirical news, audio and video all in the name of humour and entertainment. It’s become so popular that its monthly audience numbers rival those of CNN and the BBC.

Take a look at an infographic comparing The Onion and CNBC‘s audiences:

CNBC vs THE ONION

Not only is The Onion‘s audience around the same as CNBC‘s but the gender and audience demographics are more balanced – appealing to a more diverse group of people.

Satirical news is slowly taking over the internet one troll at a time, which has us wondering – is fake news becoming more popular than real news?