From Provoking Emotions to fake Images: The Recurring Signs of fake news and Phishing Scams Spreading on Social Media in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia


  • Kenyeres Attila Zoltán Eszterházy Károly Catholic University, Eger, Hungary
  • Lauren Weigand Duquesne University Kline School of Law



fake news, social media, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia


The phenomenon of fake news and media manipulation has always existed in human history, long before the invention of digital technology. However, never before in the history of mankind has it been possible to spread fake news so quickly, in such large quantities and to such large masses, as now, in the age of the internet and social media. In this paper we identified 31 recurring signs of fake news and phishing scams spreading on social media in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, based on the content analysis of 866 screenshots of social media posts, internet articles, phishing emails and SMS messages from these 3 countries. The most common group of signs are signs of provoking emotions. The second largest group of indicators include the characteristics of the media publishing the news. The third major category is the visual appearance and wording of the news. The fourth group of recurring signs refers to the original source of the news. The fifth group of indicators is the lack of reliable and/or official media coverage of the story. The elements of the sixth group of signs are the photoshopped and re-framed 'proof' images and videos that appear in the news. The seventh, and final group, of indicators refers to the prior beliefs and biases of the target audience. Provoking emotions, and thereby turning off the recipient's critical thinking, is the most common sign of fake news, scams and other hoaxes. Consequently, there is a great need for a high level of critical thinking and information literacy regarding social media contents on the part of the recipient. Our research was based on a fake news database collected in the framework of an international Erasmus+ project called "Media Detective". The aim of the project is to develop media literacy training modules for teachers and youth workers that could be used in school settings.