Nowadays, finding information on an almost limitless number of issues is as easy as opening a browser on your computer or phone, typing the question you want answered on the subject about which you want to learn, and waiting a second or two for a list of links to be displayed. At this point it is up to the individual to determine which of the links contain accurate, verifiable information, and which contain misleading or outright false information. Some of these determinations are easy. However, it is not unusual for purveyors of false information to cleverly disguise their intentions and deceptive content.
Although it has always been a wise practice for consumers of news to approach the task with a degree of skepticism, the increase in the number of media outlets has made it necessary to find ways of determining the validity of the information obtained from the source. That is, consumers must develop media literacy.
Given its vital role in serving the information needs of the Red Bank community, it is important for the Library to offer guidance to patrons about the evaluation of the information that they uncover while using its resources. This annotated bibliography is intended for both young and adult patrons. It is a one-stop source of information about the challenge of fake news, fact-checking sites, and material that will assist patrons to enhance their media literacy. In each case, hyperlinks are included that allow the patron to open the referenced sites.
Table of Contents
- Part I – Definition of Terms
- Part II – Articles that Discuss the Standards for the Recognition of Fake News
- Part III – Fact Checking Websites
- Part IV – Adult Instructional Material Dealing with Media Literacy
- Part V – Sources for Media Literacy Instruction in Schools
- Part VI – Articles Written for Students
- Part VII – University Library Sites Designed for Students
- Part VIII – How Likely are You to Believe Fake News
- Part IX – International Concerns About Fake News
Part I – Definition of Terms
When people talk about fake news, they rely on a set of words that have become very important elements of the nation’s active vocabulary. Several of these words have been judged by lexicographers to be the most important in the public discourse over the period of a year.
- Disinformation - False information deliberately and often secretly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or hide the truth. False information which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media. It often serves to confuse, manipulate, brainwash, or gaslight. This is fake news.
- Fake News - The printing and dissemination of spurious (bogus) information. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead. It is false information or propaganda published under the guise of being authentic news. (American Dialect Society, 2017 word of the year)
- Media Literacy - Media literacy is the ability to understand media text and evaluate media institutions, to create media of one’s own, and to understand and utilize the social and political influence of media in everyday life. Media literate youth and adults are better able to understand the complex messages we receive from television, radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, video games, music, and all other forms of media. Media literacy is necessary to deal with the complicated, ever-changing world of electronic and print sources of information.
- Misinformation - False or inaccurate information that is simply wrong regardless of whether it is intentional or accidental, a genuine mistake or criminal stupidity.
- Post-Truth – Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. In this era of post-truth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire. Provides a rationale for why fake news has taken such a hold on the public. (Oxford Dictionary, 2016 word of the year)
- Published Information - Something created to communicate with the public. The noun publication comes from the Latin word publicare, meaning “make public.” To publish is to present copies or audio recordings to a group of people for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display.
- Truthiness – A sense that something seems or feels like it is true, even if it is not true. Truthiness occurs when you prefer concepts or facts that you wish to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true. A wide range of motivations influence information seeking and information avoidance. Truthiness is believing something to be true based on one's intuition, opinion, or perception without regard to logic, factual evidence, or the like. There is a growing trend of truthiness as opposed to truth.
Part II – Articles that Explain How to Recognize Fake News
The items below represent only a tiny sample of the literature that has appeared to sound the alarm about fake news. The sources, however, are among the most trustworthy with respect to providing reliable information to the public.
New York Times, January 26, 2017. Teaching tips that train students to recognize fake news.
National Public Radio, December 5, 2016. Transcript of an NPR broadcast that describes six best practices that people can use when reading articles online. Brief, interesting read!
The mission statement of the Poynter Institute declares that it “is a global leader in journalism as the world’s leading instructor, innovator, convener and resource for anyone who aspires to engage and inform citizens in 21st Century democracies.”
- The International Fact-Checking Network promotes excellence in fact-checking. The code of five principles were written to be used by organizations that regularly publish nonpartisan reports on the accuracy of statements made by public figures, major institutions, and other widely circulated claims of interest to society.
- PunditFact is the fact-checking department of the Tampa Bay Times that examines the accuracy of articles written by newspaper columnists and statements of television commentators. The link contains a broadcast held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that offers an in-depth look at the impact of PunditFact's work and how the fact-checking of experts can improve, expand, and further help ensure an informed electorate.
FactCheck.org, November 18, 2016. Eight principles that can be used to determine the legitimacy of a published source of information. The description of each principle includes an example of fake news that was revealed because it violated the principle. A very nicely written, informative article.
New York Times, May 27, 2018. Production and propagation of fake news is experiencing a sea change with the development of more sophisticated technology. However, the long-term effect of fake news may resemble that of new, targeted, deceptive advertisements which may, over time, become less influential among the members of their besieged audiences. “For now, it’s the best hope we have.”
Part III – Fact Checking Websites
The amount of misinformation that is spread regarding politics, government policies, religion, and a variety of hoaxes and scams is enormous. A number of websites have taken up the task of identifying rumors by presenting evidence and hard facts. As a background for using fact-checking sites, it is recommended that you read “About the Fact Checker” to understand the purposes, methods, and output of the Washington Post’s efforts to assess the truth of political statements. Below are introductions to four of the commonly acknowledged best sites that help you distinguish between the truth and falsehoods.
A project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, FactCheck.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that examines the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players. Topics for fact checking are selected by the staff. There is a useful ‘Search’ link that allows users to find information about topics of interest to them. Importantly, the “Ask a Question’ link permits the user to submit a question about the truth of a claim and/or a question about a scientific matter.
This is a fact-checking site that is very popular among numerous news media. It was created to deny or confirm widely spread current stories or myths. Snopes also investigates Internet rumors, e-mail forwards, and other stories of unknown or uncertain bases. Although fact-checking in general is often accused by critics as the product of a left-wing conspiracy, research has shown Snopes coverage to be free of bias. “Search for Keywords or URLs” brings you to a list of news items about the topic that you are searching (e.g., President of the United States).
See New York Times, December 26, 2016, Pp. B1, B4. Bigger Fact Checking Role for Snopes Brings More Attacks.
USAFacts provides factual portraits of the American population, government finances, and government’s impact on society. It claims to be a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic enterprise that has no political agenda or commercial motive. Its findings rely exclusively on publicly available government data sources, and it partners with three academic institutions to help keep data accurate and unbiased. It is not always easy to locate the specific data in which you are interested.
PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials, candidates, leaders of political parties and political activists at all levels of government. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times. The site uses a six-point rating scale, the Truth-o-meter, to indicate the relative accuracy of a statement (e.g., ‘True’ → ‘Pants on Fire’). The website’s staff selects the statements that are checked for accuracy. One can request PolitiFact to check the accuracy of a statement of personal interest.
Part IV – Adult Instructional Material Dealing with Media Literacy
Rather than simply reading prepared text about fake news, the items below provide instructional video on the topic.
This is an ALA Webinar that addresses the rise of fake news, particularly those information behaviors that maintain its spread. There is a brief report on ways to identify fake news. The material is presented in a formal academic style that probably is not suited to younger library users. To watch the presentation, scroll down to “How to Register” and click on “Watch the recording” link. The recording must be opened in the Adobe Connect Add-In (available to upload from the site).
- YouTube Tutorials for Evaluating Web Sites
Short presentations on sets of standards for determining the believability of websites.
a. Evaluating Websites
b. Evaluating Web Pages
Part V – Sources for Media Literacy Instruction in Schools
One of the greatest challenges for educators nowadays is trying to influence the manner in which students use information obtained from their cell phones and computers. These seemingly ever-present devices in the hands of young people not only distort the allocation of time they devote to necessary life activities, but they have a huge impact on what they believe to be legitimate information that can be used to satisfy academic assignments. As a result, a number of organizations have created material specially designed to teach young people the importance of questioning the legitimacy of material they uncover on the web and the media literacy skills required to make sound judgments about it.
Members of the American Society of News Editors are editors, producers, or directors in charge of journalistic organizations or departments, deans or faculty at university journalism departments. This website contains a collection of programs and efforts that were administered by ASNE’s Youth Journalism Initiative to help students learn why news matters and acquire the skills needed to succeed as 21st-century citizens. Suggest that you open the School Journalism.org link and then explore the ‘NEWS & MEDIA LITERACY’ link.
The News Literacy Project (NLP) is a nonpartisan national education nonprofit that receives financial support from several major foundations (e.g., Rockefeller Foundation) and that works with educators and journalists to teach middle school and high school students how to sort fact from fiction in the digital age. NLP’s goal is for news literacy to be part of the American educational experience as an essential skill. Every student should have an appreciation of trustworthy journalism and the skills to be an active participant in a healthy democracy.
- Ten questions for Fake News Detection – Questions used to find out whether a piece of information is fake news.
- CheckologyTM – This set of highly appealing digital lessons and educational resources is a promising way to learn about social media and digital citizenship. The platform features 10 core lessons that give students a foundation in news literacy, including a focus on the role of the First Amendment and watchdog journalism in a democracy, as well as the development of skills and ideas that help students determine how to know what to believe when presented with news and other information. The “freemium” model gives educators basic access at no cost, allowing them to deliver the lessons in a one-to-many format.
Located at Stony Brook University, the Center teaches students how to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and believability of news reports and news sources. The Center also is at work developing pioneering curriculum materials for high schools and the general public through the Digital Resource Center, funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Course materials which have been developed with substantial use in college classrooms may be examined by opening the link entitled “The 14 Lessons.”
Part VI – Articles Written for Students
Science News for Students, September 21, 2017. An essay that instructs students to “question everything” and “figure out who to trust.” Contains a glossary (titled “Power Words) of terms associated with STEM subjects.
Science News for Students, September 22, 2017. Contains teaching tips and tools, and media literacy resources.
NPREd, October 31, 2017. Describes educational initiative to be implemented at ten universities intended to teach students to fact-check “statements of all stripes.” Excellent collection of recommendations to improve one’s media literacy.
This site provides a worksheet that is useful for determining the legitimacy of a Website. Evaluating News: Good, Bad, Totally Fake? contains sets of questions that address the validity of the information on a Website and assess whether bias is present in the reporting. A useful tool for a student that intends to use the information on a particular Website as the centerpiece of a school assignment.
- Smart Internet Surfing: Evaluating Websites and Advertising
This is a fun, fascinating book that will educate and help young students (recommended for ages 8 – 12) learn about safe web searching. It provides a description of the internet and offers prescriptions for safely working with and evaluating sites. The back of the book contains an index, a glossary, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore. The book is available in the Children’s room.
New York Times, March 11, 2018. Report of research indicating that for all categories of information, false stories on Twitter spread significantly farther, faster, and more broadly than did true ones. Further, despite concerns about the role of web robots in spreading stories, human behavior contributed more to the differential spread of truth and falsity than bots did.
Part VII - University Library Sites Designed for Students
Aside from the sites mentioned below, you are likely to find that the reference librarian at your college can point you to special material prepared at the school (e.g., courses dealing with media literacy offered at the library or by the communications department).
A student-focused research guide called “Fake or Fact.” Busy Website containing many links to interesting facts, articles, and teaching points dealing with the prevalence and detection of fake news.
In just 45 minutes, Tutorial for Information Power (TIP) will teach you how to think strategically about information and the processes of: Investigating a topic; Searching for information; Finding the information in the library; Evaluating the quality of information (the segment most closely aligned with media literacy); Using the information in papers, speeches, or projects. Begin the tutorial by selecting the investigating button. Appropriate program for high school students.
A nice visual guide containing information to assist identifying and avoiding fake news. Make sure that you open the ‘Resources,’ ‘Let’s Check a Claim,’ and ‘Check Your Own Claim’ links on the home page.
Part VIII - How likely are you to believe fake news?
We like to think of ourselves as astute observers of the world around us and capable of recognizing reliable sources of information with which guide our lives. However, research has demonstrated clearly that there are a number of personal characteristics that affect an individual’s ability to tell the difference between factual statements, whether spoken or written, and inaccurate assertions. Below is a sampling of current research that identifies personal characteristics, some of which may pertain to you, that are related to this ability to make sound judgments about the validity of information.
National Public Radio, July 18, 2017. Simply being around other people seems to increase your propensity to believe in fake news. You assume that the person who's with you is going to do the fact check.
Scientific American, February 6, 2018. Research on cognitive aging suggests that older adults may be especially vulnerable to fake news. On the other hand, more educated people may develop meta-cognitive skills—strategies for monitoring and regulating one’s own thinking—that can be used to combat the effects of misinformation. Finally, when a claim is made to feel familiar through repetition, people tend to neglect their own knowledge base in rating the claim’s truthfulness.
Psychology Today, March 31, 2017. People tend to perceive themselves as objective perceivers and thinkers with respect to both the social and physical worlds. So, when they hear or see something consistent with their beliefs, there is a tendency to believe it. Further, even when people admit to using biased sources, they still think they reach unbiased, objective conclusions. In sum, people overestimate their ability to determine the legitimacy of the news source, think that information that aligns with their existing beliefs - even if it is fake - is more credible than information that does not.
Part IX – International Concerns about Fake News
Fake news is not simply a problem affecting the United States. Rather, it is recognized as a threat to democratic institutions worldwide. The articles below are a sample of the responses of countries on different continents to the fact that important information sources are regularly contaminated by misinformation. Interestingly, as of March 1, 2018, the U.S. had not launched a national initiative to deal with fake news.
New York Times, October 18, 2017. The Italian government, in cooperation with leading digital companies including Facebook, is set to begin training students in 8,000 high schools across the country how to recognize fake news and conspiracy theories online.
New York Times, February 18, 2008. Brazil’s Federal Police established a task force to study the tactics used by groups that have been active in spreading fake news and determining which current laws could be used to prosecute them.
CNBC, April 6, 2017. Germany's Cabinet approved a new bill that punishes social networking sites if they fail to swiftly remove illegal content such as hate speech or defamatory fake news. Social networks need to ensure that obviously criminal content — as defined by German law — will be deleted within 24 hours and other illegal content after seven days.
BBC News, February 16, 2017. An interesting report that describes a variety of fake news stories that appeared in African media. The steps taken by various news organizations (e.g., South Africa’s Eyewitness News website) to educate readers about fake news is also addressed.
The Guardian, January 23, 2018. Britain’s national security council will establish a unit dedicated to tackle fake news. Defense of the country requires combating disinformation disseminated by state actors.
Digiday, January 23, 2017. In Sweden, it is common for people to subscribe directly to established sources of news. Consequently, Swedes rely less on Facebook for news. Further, publishers contact people directly who have commented online about fake stories, and they have implemented ways to make real news more easily identifiable.
New York Times, March 1, 2018. Article contains examples of how false information has spread in Europe recently, polarizing opinions about contentious topics like Muslim immigration.