How to be a Fake News Ninja

As a University student it is imperative that you arm yourself against the barrage of fake news that can be found in today’s media.  To produce academically sound assignments and research, you need to be able identify and evaluate information quickly and with authority.

Here are 10 tips on how you can be a Fake News Ninja:

  1. Be aware: just simply knowing that not all information is created equal is the first step.
  2. Check the source: Where did the information come from? This can be tricky, especially on social media.
  3. Read more: don’t just rely on the piece of information that’s in front of you… go an find another reliable source and see if the facts are the same.
  4. Check the author: Do a bit of Google stalking to see if the author is credible.
  5. Check the references: does the item have references? What sources have they used? Are they credible?
  6. Check the date: watch out for re-posts old news items.
  7.  Check your biases: You own beliefs and prejudices can have an affect on how you accept information.
  8. Is it a joke?: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  9. Ask a Librarian: Librarians are the original Fake News Ninjas.  Come and ask us about any reference that you aren’t too sure about and we can help you make an authoritative decision on  the information you use for your research.
  10. Knowledge is power: Read more about Fake News and how you can win the fight. Everything you need to know is in our Fake News Guide.

Read our other blogs on Fake News to be aware of the consequences of Fake News and the history and growth of Fake News.

References
IFLA (2018) How to spot fake news. Available at: https://www.ifla.org/publications/node/11174 (Accessed: 23 March 18)

The consequences of Fake News

A scan of some of our “Fake or Fact?” stories this week might raise a few smiles, but as we’ve seen increasingly over the past couple of years, Fake News can have far-reaching consequences.
Hands up, who’s had the awkwardness of friends or family members reposting dubious material on Facebook? If so, you’re not alone. Apparently, according to a MIT study published this year, based on three years’ worth of Twitter meta-analysis, fake news travels up to six times faster than genuine stories. False stories were up to 70% more likely to receive a retweet – often due the novelty or shock factor.

In the sphere of politics, this can have worrying consequences. The U.S. election in late 2016 coined the term for us and is a particularly rich source of Fake news and political spin. Business Insider lists some of the most influential fake news stories to surface during this time; from false claims that WikiLeaks had proof of Clinton arms deals with ISIS, to a fictional Papal endorsement of Trump, said to have received nearly a million hits on Facebook. Only this month, the Jakarta Post reported on concerns of Fake News polluting the build-up to the Indonesian Presidential Elections next year as Facebook groups flood the country’s web spaces with doctored videos; something that has previous lead to protests in the streets of the capital.

And even when we know we might be dealing with dubious information, Fake News can continue to wield influence. Newcastle University’s own Dr. Gavin Stewart, a meta-analysis expert explains “claims with no scientific proof cast doubt over those with overwhelming evidence, leaving us at the best confused and in the worst case making totally the wrong decision.”

A strong example can be found in the now discredited research of Andrew Wakefield. Back in 1998, Wakefield drew unsubstantiated links between the MMR vaccination and childhood autism. Despite the widespread exposure of the fraudulent claims and rebuttals from the medical community, vaccination rates of the MMR vaccine dropped, and last year saw a 400% increase of measles cases across Europe.

So what does this mean for you as a current student?
The National Literacy Trust has been conducting research into pupils’ critical skills, and worryingly, has found that 35% of teachers in the UK taught pupils citing fake news and satire as legitimate sources. A fifth of pupils between 8 and 15 believe that everything found online is trustworthy and true. The antidote to this is building on one of your core graduate attributes and competencies – critical thinking. Always check out stories you’ve found online before using them in your work. Who have they come from, how partisan is that group or author? Is the material satire? What does the author stand to gain? Employers in all industries are looking for graduate with sharp reasoning skills and sound judgement. As students producing work in the current “post-truth” climate, your job is a little tougher, but you can turn this to your advantage by proving you have the skills and the smarts to outwit the Fake News racketeers.

Read our other blogs on Fake News to learn about the history and growth of Fake News and how you can become a Fake News Ninja.

References
1. Vosoughi, Roy and Aral, (2018). “The spread of true and false news online.” Science, 359: 6380, pp. 1146-1151.
2. Roberts (2016) “This is what fake news actually looks like — we ranked 11 election stories that went viral on Facebook.” Business Insider UK. November 17th
http://uk.businessinsider.com/fake-presidential-election-news-viral-facebook-trump-clinton-2016-11/#5-hillary-clinton-sold-weapons-to-isis-and-it-was-confirmed-by-wikileaks-7)
3. Pearl (2018). “Indonesia battels fake news as elections looms” Jakarta Post. 15th March http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/15/indonesia-battles-fake-news-as-elections-loom.html
4. Newcastle university (2018) “Filtering out Fake News” 7th March. http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/articles/latest/2018/03/fakenews/
5. Houston, (2018) “Measles back with a vengeance due to fake health news” The Irish Times. Feb 23rd. https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/measles-back-with-a-vengeance-due-to-fake-health-news-1.3401960
6. National Literacy Trust (2018). “Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools” https://literacytrust.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/all-party-parliamentary-group-literacy/fakenews/

History and growth of Fake News

Fake News is nothing new and has been going on since time began!

Have at look at our timeline on our Fake News Guide for a snapshot of how Fake News has shaped history:

With the introduction of mass news with the invention of the printing press, and the massive up-rise in news being created and fed via social media, the growth of the term ‘Fake News’ and the actual production of Fake News stories has grown exponentially in recent years:

  • The term ‘Fake News’ is searched for in web browsers 70.8-118 thousand times a month.
  • #fakenews has over 251.2k mentions on Twitter
  • In 2017 Donald Trump mentioned the term ‘Fake News’ in public correspondence, 320 times!

Not only has the volume of Fake News grown, but also the speed that it spreads.  However, maybe there is a way we can slow it down:

Read our other blogs on Fake News to be aware of the consequences of Fake News and how you can become a Fake News Ninja.

References
Kiely, E. (2018) Trump’s Phony ‘Fake News’ Claims. Available at: https://www.factcheck.org/2018/01/trumps-phony-fake-news-claims/. Accessed: 23 March 2018).
Smith, R. (2017) The Numbers Behind Fake News. Available at: http://www.dailyinfographic.com/numbers-behind-fake-news. (Accessed: 23 March 2018).