Brave New World – Developing the skills for evaluating “Fake News”

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).

bbc fake news post
Example of fake news article on Facebook. Source: 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].
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.

Evaluating information online

 

Word Count: 300

Bibliography

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

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8 thoughts on “Brave New World – Developing the skills for evaluating “Fake News”

  1. Hi Ryan,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog. It’s crazy how Russia denies allegations that it attempted to influence the US presidential election in 2016 when Russia-linked posts which were mostly against Hillary Clinton reached 126 million Facebook users in the US

    While these posts had a political agenda, most posts on the internet are posted for monetary gains. Most websites such as YouTube, Facebook etc use CPM (cost per thousand) to pay its content creators. For example, a CPM of $2.00 means for every 1000 impressions on a website the creator earns $2.00 (Investopedia, 2018). The more clicks a page gets the more money the creator earns. This has led to an increase in clickbait contents. As click-bait titles are often over exaggerated it can provide people with wrong information. Do you think there is a way of deterring content creators from using creating click-bait content?

    References
    Investopedia (2018) Investopedia: Cost Per Thousand – CPM. Available from: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/cpm.asp [Accessed 15 March 2018].

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    1. Hi Bivash,
      I’d like to expand on your point regarding content creators using clickbait by adding that traditional media outlets also play a role when it comes to spreading false information online. Ball discussed how mainstream media websites will include within their advertisements links to clickbait articles (2017). I don’t believe clickbait can ever really be stopped due to the financial incentives of the people who generate the original articles and those who later profit from its spread. Education on improving your own digital literacy I believe is therefore more important that targeting the creators of false information.

      Reference:
      Ball, J. (2017). Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World. La Vergne: Biteback Publishing. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Post-Truth-How-Bullshit-Conquered-World/dp/1785902148

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  2. Hi Ryan,

    I found your post really interesting and enjoyable to read. I don’t know if you saw but recently this news article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-43344256?intlink_from_url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/cjxv13v27dyt/fake-news&link_location=live-reporting-story) refers to a study which shows that people are 70% more likely to retweet fake news, especially as you say in your blog post usually of a political nature. I feel like the strategic and formal internet skills you refer to are simple enough but do you think that these concepts are accessible to the wider public?
    I think that the time it takes to map out out how you reach to a certain link especially will be something that people will not do, if you think about how much information we actually consume/how much we surf the web. Do you think then that there needs to be a different approach to educate users?

    Luke

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