Fake news is everywhere online. After all, everyone has a friend on Facebook who rolls their eyes when they share a sensational news article that is fake or from a heavily biased site promoting an agenda. But can today’s students tell the difference between what is legitimate and what is fake? The answer might surprise you.
As today’s students grow up in a digital world, they must learn information literacy skills if they are to effectively evaluate sources of information and become truly informed. Skills such as problem solving and creativity are usually classified as soft skills because they are necessary but difficult to measure. In today’s online world, however, information literacy is moving from a soft skill to one of the most critical.
Why is this critical? Consider this: During the 2016 presidential election, fake news was more popular than legitimate media reporting.
A BuzzFeed Analysis found that in the last three months of the US presidential campaign, the most viewed fake election news stories on Facebook garnered more reader engagement than top legitimate stories from sources including the Washington Post, the New York Times and NBC News. In total, the top performing fake news received about 1.3 million more shares, reactions and comments than the top performing legitimate news.
Facebook was heavily criticized for what many saw as an inadequate attempt to remove fake news and misinformation from the site. Later, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that while the Facebook team does not want to discourage members from using the platform to share opinions, it is taking steps to prevent and sanction the spread of misinformation.
“Anyone on Facebook can report any link as fake, and we use the signals from those reports along with a number of others – like people sharing links to myth-busting sites like Snopes – to understand which stories we can confidently classify as misinformation,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Similar to clickbait, spam, and scams, we penalize this content in the News Feed so it’s much less likely to spread.”