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Digital Citizenship Resources for Parents and Teachers

Digital Citizenship Week just passed and eSchool News shared several resources available to help teach such citizenship lessons to kids. The focus of these materials is helping children, educators, and parents understand what digital citizenship means and how to apply it when confronted with issues or situations online.

Americans Distrust Social Media Bots

Social media bots that operate without human involvement to post content and interact with human users are a growing concern related to the spread of political misinformation online. A Pew Research Center survey shows that 8 in 10 Americans are aware of the bots and believe they are used for malicious purposes. While the public’s overall impression of social media bots is negative, many people have more nuanced views about specific uses of bots such as the government using them to post emergency updates. Make sure you discuss the use of bots with your kids – perhaps another form of “stranger danger?”

Vetting Sources – A Bit of a Case Study

According to the online magazine site Quartz, only 17% of the current biographical entries on Wikipedia are about women, and the site is particularly thin on women in science. This stat was shared in light of some controversy about an entry on physicist Donna Strickland that was rejected by the online encyclopedia for not containing enough information about her. Days after the article was removed, Strickland won a Nobel Prize in physics, making her the only woman alive to receive the award, and a new biographical entry was posted on Wikipedia. Something to remember if your kids use Wikipedia as a preliminary source for projects – they may not be getting the full story and some additional research is always a good idea.

Twitter Using New Way to Counter Misinformation

Twitter has announced that user behavior, not simply tweet content, will now be a factor in the way conversations are modified, or even blocked from general consumption. Content from users could be demoted by the platform's algorithm if the users have been blocked frequently, if they have multiple accounts using the same IP address, or if they regularly tweet to a large number of accounts that they don't follow.

Intel Contest Includes Project on Misinformation

About 1,800 students from 81 countries competed in the recent Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, held this year in Pittsburgh. One high-school student's project was aimed at combating fake news after he says he nearly fell for a false headline on Facebook. Ryan Beam says he almost believed a headline about the Pope endorsing Donald Trump (and indeed, it was untrue), which got him to thinking of ways to look at the fake news situation for himself. His study found that people who identified themselves as Independents were the least likely to share misinformation.

Twitter is a Disaster During a Disaster

This may not surprise you, but during disasters, Twitter is full of false information. When confronted with falsehoods, “86 to 91 percent of the users spread the false news by retweeting or liking,” reports a new study from the University at Buffalo. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate how apt Twitter users are at debunking falsehoods during disasters,” said Jun Zhuang, associate professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the school, and the lead author of the study. “Unfortunately, the results paint a less-than-flattering picture”.

Adrift in the Fake News Era

National Public Radio recently interviewed the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, about his thoughts on fake news online. It is interesting to remember that Wikipedia used to be the sole subject of so many teachers’ ire because students often used information from the site in their reports without vetting it, but now that seems almost quaint in the face of other fake news scandals.

Wales feels we all need to be skeptical of the sources of things we share online. He said many times people will find a story that confirms what they already believe about a particular subject, so they go ahead and share it. But the truth is, anyone could have written that article, and without a quick google search to vet the sources, you could just be perpetuating the problem.

 

Twitter and Facebook Support the Honest Ads Act

Twitter and Facebook are supporting the Honest Ads Act, a proposal that calls for platforms with a minimum of 50 million users to retain and make available for public viewing all political ads bought by groups investing more than $500. The bill would also require political ads to be labeled with "clear and conspicuous" disclosures and would require that platforms make "reasonable efforts" to prevent ads from being bought by foreign agencies.

Hamilton 68

Are you curious about the Russian social media disinformation campaigns that have been a hot topic in the news recently? The Hamilton 68 dashboard tracks Russian social media in real time as it appears on Twitter. Named after Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Paper 68 (on the importance of "protecting America’s electoral process from foreign meddling"), the dashboard initially tracked election-related tweets but has since expanded to additional topics, such as the Parkland school shooting. It is an interesting tool to look at with your kids when talking about misinformation online.

Curious About How Conspiracy Theories Get Spread Online?

The latest online attacks against the teen survivors of the Parkland shooting is a good case study on how this happens and how quickly it occurs. An article in The Washington Post entitled We studied thousands of anonymous posts about the Parkland attack – and found a conspiracy in the making outlines the part that anonymous social media forums play in the process. It’s a primer on how misinformation is created on purpose, endures endlessly, and the havoc that it plays in lives of those who are targeted.

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