False information published online can be designed to further a political agenda, or simply to generate revenue through misleading titles, article descriptions and media in the form of “clickbait”. “Information gap theory” offers some insight into why clickbait is successful, when a reader sees a snippet of a fake news article they will draw upon their background knowledge of that subject (Golman and Loewenstein 2015).This leads to a desire for the reader to seek out the gaps in information from the snippet itself thereby motivating the reader to click the full article (Golman and Loewenstein 2015).
With regards to political agendas, social media posts crafted by fake accounts can be used in order to push a certain narrative that is factually untrue, (BBC News, 2017). Likewise bots can be used to share factually inaccurate tweets in order to make the tweets themselves appear more credible by propagating them into a wide network where they are seen by many people (Wooley, 2016).
To assess the validity of this false information online, technological interventions can be used. For instance by using online tools such as “news tracer” users can determine the factual accuracy of a tweet by analysing who shared it, and if the claims in the tweet have been verified by others within the network (Keohane et al., 2017).
(Van Dijk, & Van Deursen, 2010) argued that the critical thinking skills required for traditional media literacy are not enough when it comes assessing information online. This is in part due to the sheer wealth of options for sources of information available on the web, so new digital skills are needed to evaluate them. An example of one of these digital skills is “strategic skills” which is needed in order to develop a goal for what information you are hoping to find and for the method you will use to find this information (Van Dijk, & Van Deursen, 2010). More details on digital skills are in the diagram below.
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BBC News. (2017). Russia posts ‘reached 126m Facebook users’. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41812369 [Accessed 6 Mar. 2018].
Golman, R. and Loewenstein, G. (2015). Curiosity, Information Gaps, and the Utility of Knowledge. SSRN Electronic Journal. [online] Available at: https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=450091020087104093088074077105097112059038009000020002096086019066103093094005113027119013052038049022008092064119113000126021024091008040092093014121112021102066072086019086120013095115097084085082093086002104025024023079111105013103081089001101092126&EXT=pdf
Keohane, J., Vogelstein, F., Geltzer, J., Eden, S., Simonite, T., Gendreau, H. and Finley, K. (2017). WHAT NEWS-WRITING BOTS MEAN FOR THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM. [online] WIRED. Available at: https://www.wired.com/2017/02/robots-wrote-this-story/ [Accessed 6 Mar. 2018].
Woolley, S. (2016). Automating power: Social bot interference in global politics. [online] Firstmonday.org. Available at: http://firstmonday.org/article/view/6161/5300 [Accessed 5 Mar. 2018].
Van Dijk, Jan A.G.M. & Deursen, Alexander J.A.M.. (2010). TRADITIONAL MEDIA SKILLS AND DIGITAL MEDIA SKILLS: MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE?. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4442/225fdb6ce0886d9bf1bfaae9117d3c238eec.pdf