This is what students think about ‘fake news’ and the media

In yesterday’s edition of News Hour on PBS, there was an interesting segment on children and fake news. Here’s the description:

In an era marked by cries of “fake news,” teaching media literacy skills to young consumers is more important than ever. How do schools teach students consuming and sharing news responsibly? PBS Newshour’s Student Reporting Labs talks to students about how they experience news and what they think about journalism today.

To watch the segment, click on the image below. To watch the entire episode, click here.

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Learning to spot fake news: Start with a gut check

Which of these statements seems more trustworthy to you?

1) Americans are drowning in a tsunami of ignorance! There is a conspiracy at the highest levels to replace all knowledge with propaganda and disinformation.

2) A recent Stanford University report found that more than 80 percent of middle schoolers didn’t understand that the phrase “sponsored content” meant “advertising.”

For most of the NPR audience, this shouldn’t be a tough question. The first sentence is a florid, mislabeled statement of opinion with an unverifiable, overgeneralized, ideological claim (“conspiracy at the highest levels”).

The second is more measured in tone and limited in scope. And, it has a link that goes straight to the original source: a press release from a reputable university.

But these days, statements of all stripes are bombarding us via broadcast and social media. The trick is classifying them correctly before we swallow them ourselves, much less before we hit “Like,” “Share” or “Retweet.”

And that is the goal of an educational initiative that will be adopted by 10 universities across the country this spring.

Read more at NPR.

Image courtesy of NPR.

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Fake news, fake data

Some people have called 2016 the year of fake news. False articles with gripping headlines about everything from the demise of Taco Bell to Hillary Clinton’s selling weapons to ISIS took social media by storm. Millions of people clicked, read, and shared these stories that had no basis in fact.

But it’s not just the articles that can be false. Many fake news sites use bad data or misleading graphs. Even mainstream media outlets are guilty of creating graphs that exaggerate or understate results. Bad graphs and inaccurate data can cause readers to draw the wrong conclusions.

These invented stories supported by bad data are part of a new trend. Fake news websites—many with official-sounding names and professional-looking designs—are multiplying. Experts warn that fake news sites are weakening the public’s ability to distinguish between fact and fiction.

Read more at Scholastic.

Image courtesy of Scholastic.

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Fake news fills information void in Las Vegas shooting

As law enforcement and news organizations raced to piece together what happened during the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history Sunday night in Las Vegas, web denizens less wedded to the truth rushed in to provide details of their own—which quickly went viral.

Links to the 4chan website that falsely identified the shooter and called him a leftist and Democratic supporter were showing up on the top of Google search results, according to tweets by Buzzfeed News reporter Ryan Broderick.

Read more at Ad Age.

Image courtesy of Ad Age.

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To test your fake news judgment, play this game

Fake news has been on Maggie Farley’s mind further back than 2016 when President Trump brought the term into the vernacular.

Farley, a veteran journalist, says we’ve had fake news forever and that “people have always been trying to manipulate information for their own ends,” but she calls what we’re seeing now “Fake news with a capital F.” In other words, extreme in its ambition for financial gain or political power.

“Before, the biggest concern was, ‘Are people being confused by opinion; are people being tricked by spin?’ ” Now, Farley says, the stakes are much higher.

So one day she says an idea came to her: build a game to test users’ ability to detect fake news from real.

Voilà, Factitious. Give it a shot. (And take it from us, it’s not as easy as you might think!)

Read more at NPR.

Image courtesy of NPR.

Twitter may introduce feature to let users flag ‘fake news’

Twitter is considering a feature that would let users flag tweets that are false or inaccurate, in an attempt to combat the spread of disinformation on the platform.

The new feature, reported by the Washington Post, would allow Twitter users to report a post as misleading, in the same way they can currently report individual tweets as spam, or abusive or harmful.

The move would follow Facebook, which introduced a way for users to report “fake news” in December last year. That tool allows US users of the site to report “purposefully fake or deceitful news” to the site’s moderators. In the UK, however, the same option only allows users to block or message the poster, offering no way to bring the posts to the attention of the administrators.

Read more at The Guardian.

Image courtesy of The Guardian.

New ideas to fight fake news – and Knight money to do so

Three months ago, the Knight Foundation asked people to submit their ideas for ways to battle fake news and bolster factual journalism.

And boy, did they.

More than 800 responded.

On Thursday, the foundation and two partners announced 20 winners, each to receive a $50,000 grant to further their work.

They include Baltimore-based Veracity.ai, which wants to curb the financial incentive for creating fake news via automatically updated lists of misleading websites.

Another winner is Who Said What, based in San Francisco, which aims to help people more easily fact-check audio and video news clips through a search tool that annotates millions of those clips.

Read more at Philly.

Image courtesy of Philly.

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Humans can’t expect AI to just fight fake news for them

Here’s some news that’s not fake: Not everything you can read on the internet is true. Trouble is, it can be hard to know truths from untruths, and there’s evidence untruths travel faster. Many hands have been wrung in recent months over what to do about made-up news stories created to convert social media shares into page views, ad dollars, and perhaps even political traction. The modest first results from an effort to crowdsource machine learning technology to help stem the flood of falsity are a reminder that machines may help us grapple with fake news—but only if humans take the lead.

Late last year, Facebook’s director of AI research Yann LeCun told journalists that machine learning technology that could squash fake news “either exists or can be developed.” The company has since said it tweaked the News Feed to suppress fake news, although it’s unclear to what effect. Not long after LeCun’s comment, a group of academics, tech industry insiders, and journalists launched their own project called the Fake News Challenge to try and get fake news-detecting algorithms built out in the open.

The first results from that effort were released this morning. The algorithms the winning teams created might help rein in online misinformation, but as tools to speed up humans working on the problem, not autonomous fake news killbots.

Read more at Wired.

Image courtesy of Wired.

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Fake news is unbelievably cheap to produce

Judging by the state of Facebook feeds everywhere, fake news is now a very real problem—and one that appears to have equally real consequences by shaping political and social situations. Now, a new report puts some numbers to the costs of running a fake-news campaign, revealing that a key part of the problem may be that doing so is incredibly affordable.

There are some obvious steps required in launching a fake-news assault. First, you need some fake news—it needn’t be based on fact, but it better have a compelling headline or take the form of an easy-to-digest video, and it ought appeal to the existing biases and ideologies of potential viewers. Then, you need to push it out via social networks, using bots or real humans that you’ve coerced into doing your bidding. Finally, you’ll need likes and shares (again performed by either bots or real people) to ensure that the content saturates the feeds of your targets—and, with any luck, warps their perception of reality.

Read more at the MIT Technology Review.

Here’s who fake news affects most

The concept of fake news came to the forefront during last year’s contested US presidential campaign as numerous political stories containing made-up information surfaced on the internet.

With the existence of social media, such misinformation, designed to attract advertising dollars or promote a political cause, can be spread faster and further than ever before.

But fake news has implications far beyond the world of politics. Fact-checking and sourcing become even more important for legacy media conglomerates, while social-media platforms are increasingly under fire for the content that gets published on their platforms. Brands also have to be more careful with where they spend their ad dollars as fears creep in that their ads can appear on the wrong story.

Read more at Business Insider.

Image courtesy of Business Insider.

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Teens think they’re really good at spotting fake news

fake news teensWe wanted to poll some actual high schoolers, and the social app After School verifies its users are actually in high school through their Facebook and other factors. Teens from all 50 states answered poll questions run in the app – just over 39,000 teens in total.

A study from Stanford last year showed that middle and high school students aren’t very good at determining fake news – especially more nuanced things like noticing bias in a source, or understanding the difference between sponsored content and a regular article. (If you want to test your own ability to sniff out fake news, try one of our quizzes to see if you’re actually as good as you think.)

After the 2016 election brought the scourge of fake news into the national conversation, some schools started teaching kids media literacy and how to spot false stories on social media.

The polling standards here are not exactly scientifically rigorous, considering this survey’s results came from a bunch of kids on an app answering a poll. So take this with a grain of salt.

Read more at Buzzfeed.

Image courtesy of Buzzfeed.

Bill would help California schools teach about ‘fake news,’ media literacy

Spurred by the rise of so-called “fake news” and its impact on elections, a Santa Barbara state senator has introduced a bill that would encourage California’s K-12 schools to teach students to be skeptical, informed news consumers.

Authored by State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), SB 203, known as the digital citizenship and media literacy bill, would require the state superintendent of public instruction to convene a committee of educators, librarians, parents, students and media experts to draw up guidelines on how best to recognize fake news.

Popularized in the 2016 presidential election, the term “fake news” refers to Internet hoaxes or intentionally fabricated stories presented as news and intended to sway public opinion. Cyber bullying, privacy, copyright infringement, digital footprints, sexting and general Internet safety would also be included in the guidelines.

Read more at Ed Source.

Image courtesy of Ed Source.

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How to help students discover the whole truth

“You may think you are prepared for a post-truth world, in which political appeals to emotion count for more than statements of verifiable fact,” Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for The Washington Post, wrote recently. “But now it’s time to cross another bridge—into a world without facts. Or, more precisely, where facts do not matter a whit.”

Because I teach American history, government and journalism in high school, Sullivan’s words hit close to home. I spoke with my students about Mary Beth Hertz’s Edutopia post, “Battling Fake News in the Classroom,” and I sensed that many of my students, while skilled at what Hertz fittingly calls “crap detection,” were still deeply troubled by what they characterized as a growing public aversion to the truth.

When politicians and thought leaders can’t or won’t agree on a basic set of facts, how can we motivate students for the noble pursuit of truth and help them see why it still matters?

Read more at PBS.

Image courtesy of PBS.

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Teaching kids how to distinguish fake news from real news

In his former career as a freelance photojournalist, Jeff Share documented issues such as poverty and social activism, and won awards for his coverage of the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament of 1986.

Today, the lecturer and faculty adviser in UCLA’s Teacher Education Program has turned his lens on two critical issues facing educators and students: climate change and the need for critical thinking skills to decipher the barrage of real and alternative facts in the media.

Share, whose photos once appeared in the Washington Post, was recently interviewed by the newspaper about his critical media literacy courses at UCLA, where he trains current and future K-12 teachers in ways to show students how to deconstruct media, create their own alternative messages and separate fake news from facts. Share is the author of a 2009 book, “Media Literacy is Elementary: Teaching Youth to Critically Read and Create Media.” In 2015, a second edition of the book was released.

Read more at UCLA Newsroom.

Image courtesy of UCLA Newsroom.

Newseum ED pilots fake news class at Palo Alto High School

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Palo Alto High School

NewseumED curriculum developers will be at Palo Alto High School in California on Tuesay, May 16, to pilot their newest media literacy class, “Fighting Fake News: How to Outsmart Trolls and Troublemakers.” The class was launched at the Newseum in March in response to the “fake news” phenomenon that garnered national attention during the 2016 presidential election, and continues to be a major global concern.

Students of Esther Wojcicki, a journalism teacher at Palo Alto, provided input to NewseumED staff as they developed the class as well as a flow chart helping students determine whether a story is worth sharing by text, tweet or email.

Read more at www.Newseum.org.

Image courtesy of Newseum.

We crashed UW’s class on calling BS. Here’s what we learned about sleuthing ‘big data.’

A University of Washington seminar, “Calling BS in the Age of Big Data,” promises to help students develop a BS detector — and it’s become a global phenomenon, with universities as far away as Australia planning to teach a version of it this fall.

Did you hear about the researchers in China who said they’d developed an algorithm that could predict whether somebody was a criminal by scanning a photo of their face?

The researchers used “fancy machine learning” to eliminate human biases and come up with a scientific way to determine criminality by examining facial features, University of Washington professor Carl Bergstrom told his class in Mary Gates Hall one day last month.

“What do you guys think?” Bergstrom asked.

In unison, more than 100 students responded out loud: “Bullshit!”

Exactly.

Read more at The Seattle Times.

Image courtesy of The Seattle Times.

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Facebook posts fake-news ads in newspapers ahead of UK vote

Facebook launched a UK newspaper campaign on Monday warning British citizens to be wary of fake news in the lead up to the General Election on June 8.

The social network took out ads in major papers including The Times, The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, which list ten things its users should look out for when deciding whether to trust information they read online. The tips include checking headlines, URLs, photos and dates.

The spread of fake news has been a problem online for years, but blew up during the US presidential election last year. Facebook resorting to physical media to warn people about fake news is an indication of how widespread the problem has become and the perceived potential for it to impact the outcome of elections.

“People want to see accurate information on Facebook and so do we,” Simon Milner, Facebook’s director of policy for the UK in a statement. “That is why we are doing everything we can to tackle the problem of false news.”

Read more at C-Net.

Image courtesy of C-Net.

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Local librarians to lead workshop on media literacy

Media Literacy, a free two-hour workshop, is set at the Port Angeles Library at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Librarians Danielle Gayman and Sarah Morrison at the Port Angeles Library of the North Olympic Library System will present the workshop at the library at 2210 S. Peabody St.

“Today’s media landscape and technologies mean that misinformation or disinformation can be widely shared and disseminated, accidentally or purposefully, regardless of the facts,” according to a news release issued by the library system.

Read more in the Peninsula Daily News.

To attend, here are the workshop details

Title: Media Literacy: Thinking Critically about News & Other Resources

Date/Time: Thursday, May 18, 2017 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Location: The Carver Room at Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody Street, Port Angeles, WA 98362

Description: NOLS Librarians Danielle Gayman and Sarah Morrison will present an introductory session on Media Literacy, including types of journalism, identifying perspective, and determining bias.  Find out about “Truthiness” and learn how to identify “Fake” or “Fabricated” news.

For more information, visit the North Olympic Library website.

Image courtesy of The Peninsula Daily News.

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North Olympic Library System librarians Danielle Gayman and Sarah Morrison will offer a workshop about Media Literacy on Thursday night.

The real “Fake News”

The following is a blog post that Eni Mustafaraj has recently published in The Spoke. We reproduce it here with permission.

Fake news has always been with us, starting with The Great Moon Hoax in 1835. What is different now is the existence of a mass medium, the Web, that allows anyone to financially benefit from it.

Etymologists typically track the change of a word’s meaning over decades, sometimes even over centuries. Currently, however, they find themselves observing a new president and his administration redefine words and phrases on a daily basis. Case in point: “fake news.” One would have to look hard to find an American who hasn’t heard this phrase in recent months. The president loves to apply it as a label to news organizations that he doesn’t agree with.

Read more at TwitterTrails, a research project at Wellesley College.

Image courtesy of TwitterTrails.

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CNN refuses Trump campaign’s ‘fake news’ ad

The head of President Trump’s re-election campaign accused CNN of “censorship” on Tuesday afternoon after the broadcast network refused to run the group’s latest advertisement.

CNN said it would run the 30-second television spot, a celebration of Mr. Trump’s first 100 days in office, only if the campaign removed a section that featured the words “fake news” superimposed over several TV journalists, including Wolf Blitzer of CNN, and others from MSNBC, PBS, ABC and CBS.

CNN defended the decision in a statement on Twitter.

“The mainstream media is not fake news, and therefore the ad is false,” the network said. “Per our policy, it will be accepted only if that graphic is deleted.”

Read more at The New York Times.

 

Wikipedia’s founder wants to fix fake news

The cofounder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has a rather unconventional plan to stamp out the current scourge of the Internet, fake news. Taking inspiration from his world-changing online encyclopedia, he wants to reinvent the way that news is made.

Wales imagines a future where a civic-minded community of voluntary workers can help create news in such a way that reporters have nowhere to hide. The resulting product, which will be called Wikitribune, will be a totally free online news service that tirelessly provides links to sources and data, with legions of committed helpers keeping it on the straight and narrow path of accuracy.

To that end, Wales plans to hire a small team of professional journalists who are paid via donations from supporters based on a crowdfunding model.

Read more from MIT Technology Review.

Image courtesy of MIT Technology Review.

Unchecked fake news gave rise to an evil empire in ‘Star Wars’

We never see a journalist in “Star Wars.” Not in eight movies and counting.

The galaxy is otherwise rich in professions. There are bartenders, bounty hunters, geneticists, one librarian, medics, moisture farmers, musicians, senators, soldiers and a lady who sells toads out of the sewer. The character who comes closest to an act of journalism, if we’re being generous, is a two-headed alien who commentates during a podrace. His sportscast is mostly hackwork, stuff like “It’s Skywalker!” and “The crowds are going nuts!” Worse still, he’s not very impartial; at the sight of the gangster Jabba the Hutt, both of his heads gargle in apparent fealty.

If there was ever a galaxy far, far away in need of a smart and independent press, you’re looking at it.

“Fake news in ‘Star Wars’ is probably their number one problem,” says Ryan Britt, an editor who specializes in science fiction at the website Inverse. Britt, in his 2015 book “Luke Skywalker Can’t Read,” makes a provocative claim: Most “Star Wars” denizens, if they’re not illiterate, seem fundamentally disinterested in reading.

Read more at The Chicago Tribune.

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Tips from Teen Vogue: 5 Steps to Improve Your Media Literacy

Even the popular fashion youth magazine Teen Vogue has felt the need to educate its readers about how to improve their media literacy skills.

In between articles about fashion, entertainment and beauty, the magazine’s news and technology section recently featured a piece intended to help teens distinguish between what is real news and what can be considered “fake” news. The article begins:

Sure, most of us know that just because you read something on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. And lately everyone is talking about fake news — hoaxes, propaganda, and flat-out lies that are intentionally meant to look like real news. Confusingly, President Donald Trump has been attempting to redefine the term to mean anything that is reported by the mainstream media with which he disagrees. Even satire, a worthwhile and thought-provoking writing genre, is often incorrectly lumped together with fake news or taken at face value and mistaken for news.

Read more at Teen Vogue.

Image courtesy of Teen Vogue.

What media literacy means in the age of alternative facts

cml logo.jpgPost-truth, alternative facts and fake news. Media has changed a lot since we began tweeting, but the last year has left media and its consumers in a crisis. A Pew Research study revealed that 62 percent of adults get their news from social media. We now live in a hyper-partisan world where sensational fake news often spreads faster than real news, according to a post-election BuzzFeed analysis. In this age of citizen journalism, media literacy is a confusing proposition.

Adults may assume that digital natives, who can text, post and Google at the same time, are able to sort through the information onslaught better than they can. In fact, Stanford University released a study in November that indicates students have a lot of trouble discerning the credibility of online information. For example, 82 percent of middle schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a real news story on a website. Even worse, this study was completed well before the reports of fake news surrounding the u.s. presidential election surfaced.

There is hope. A study by the Civic Engagement Research Group found that media literacy training does make people significantly less likely to believe a factually inaccurate claim, even if it aligned with their political point of view.

Read more at the Center for Media Literacy.