Browse Definitions :
Definition

Betteridge's law (of headlines)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Betteridge's law (of headlines) is an adage that states "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no." The sweeping generalization refers to the poor journalistic practice of writing sensational headlines in the form of a question in order to compensate for the author's lack of facts. Much like Murphy’s Law -- anything that can go wrong will, and at the worst time possible -- Betteridge’s law is rooted in cynical humor.

Phrasing headlines as a question is a legitimate practice that has become closely associated with fake news due to its misuse. When a headline is phrased as a question to which the answer is "no," the author is free to ask hypothetical questions that are designed to appeal to emotion.

Examples of headlines that comply with Betteridge's law include:

Can Amazon Alexa be trusted?
Should Google Home fear Watson Assistant?
Will your next lawyer be named Siri?

Question-formatted headlines are often used for linkbaiting, the practice of crafting sensational content in hopes that readers and content providers will share the content with others. Question-formatted headlines are also used to spread disinformation because they can allow an unscrupulous author to imply that a subjective opinion is an objective fact.

Betteridge's law, which is named for technology journalist Ian Betteridge, has been a maxim of online journalism since the 1990s. The misuse of eye-catching questions in headlines to increase circulation, however, can be traced back to yellow journalism, scandal sheets and political tracts of centuries past.

See also: weaponized information

This was last updated in January 2018

Continue Reading About Betteridge's law (of headlines)

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

SearchCompliance

  • Whistleblower Protection Act

    The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a law that protects federal government employees in the United States from ...

  • smart contract

    A smart contract, also known as a cryptocontract, is a computer program that directly controls the transfer of digital currencies...

  • risk map (risk heat map)

    A risk map, also known as a risk heat map, is a data visualization tool for communicating specific risks an organization faces. A...

SearchSecurity

  • Payload (computing)

    The term payload, when used in the context of networking or telecommunications, is the data carried inside of a packet (or other ...

  • access control

    Access control is a security technique that regulates who or what can view or use resources in a computing environment.

  • ethical hacker

    An ethical hacker, also referred to as a white hat hacker, is an information security expert who systematically attempts to ...

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • virtual disaster recovery

    Virtual disaster recovery is a type of DR that typically involves replication and allows a user to fail over to virtualized ...

  • tabletop exercise (TTX)

    A tabletop exercise (TTX) is a disaster preparedness activity that takes participants through the process of dealing with a ...

  • risk mitigation

    Risk mitigation is a strategy to prepare for and lessen the effects of threats faced by a data center.

SearchStorage

  • storage at the edge

    Storage at the edge is the collective methods and technologies that capture and retain digital information at the periphery of ...

  • Flash Storage

    Flash storage is any type of drive, repository or system that uses flash memory to keep data for an extended period of time.

  • optical disc

    An optical disc is an electronic data storage medium that can be written to and read from using a low-powered laser beam.

Close