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No More Red Flags on Facebook

Facebook is getting rid of the red flags that signal articles are fake news after discovering the flags instead spurred people to click on them or share them. The company is instead including related links under such articles that will provide more trustworthy sources reporting on the topic. The “related articles” effort is something Facebook started testing earlier this year. By the way, if you do try to share posts with contentious content, a message will pop up telling you that you may out to check out other sources before you do so. Or in other words, you won’t be able to use the excuse that you had ‘no idea” that article you passed on might have false or unproven content.

Former President Obama Talks to Prince Harry About Social Media

Former President Barack Obama and the United Kingdom's Prince Harry took to the airwaves for a recent BBC interview where they discussed the potential dangers of social media and how it should be used to promote diversity and find common ground. "One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases," Obama stated. The former president also echoed something that parents concerned about their kids growing up in a Digital Age try to communicate to their children reiterating that " the truth is that on the internet everything is simplified and when you meet people face to face it turns out they are complicated." Perhaps, something every cyberbully should remember?

Snapchat Takes Aim at Misinformation

Snapchat is taking aim at misinformation with some unconventional changes to the design of the app (which for many parents is an app that has been associated with cyberbullying and sexting in the past). While the app will still initially open to the phone camera, allowing users to make and share photos that disappear with friends, the new design will try to separate personal (social) side of the app from what is produced by outside media sources. The media part will also be vetted and approved by Snap, the parent company, by humans, not by algorithms. The use of human curators will allow Snapchat to also program content to make sure that users’ preferences are not keeping them from seeing a wide array of opinions and ideas. In addition to winnowing out fake news, this may keep Snapchat from becoming a place that reinforces narrow sets of thinking. This approach is in contrast to Facebook and Google, who have not vetted much of the hate speech, fake news, and even disturbing videos aimed at children that has been proliferated on those platforms over time.

The Trust Project and Fake News

Still worried about falling into a “fake news” trap by reading or passing along something that isn’t factual? A non partisan effort, by a group hosted at Santa Clara University, called The Trust Project is working to address this situation by helping online users distinguish between reliable journalism and promotional content or misinformation. Recently, Facebook started offering “Trust Indicators” which is a new icon that will appear next to articles in your News Feed. When you click on this icon, you can read information the publisher has shared about their organization’s “ethics and other standards, the journalists’ backgrounds, and how they do their work,” according to an announcement from The Trust Project.

It is a work in progress with Facebook, Google, Bing and Twitter and other international new organizations committing to displaying these indicators, although not all implementations are in place.

The onus to figure out if something is fake though is still on the user. Instead of labeling content as disputed, Trust Indicators allow users to learn more about the organization behind the news and come to their own conclusions about the content. Whether it will actually help in the long-run, of course, remains to be seen.

Bunk – The History of Plagiarism, Hoaxes and Fake News

We continue to need to talk to kids about how to evaluate sources online and off, but we all should probably know more about the history of the hoaxes, plagiarism and fake news. A new book entitled Bunk – The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, PostFacts, and Fake News by Kevin Young draws connections between the days of P.T.Barnum and the 21st century and compares terms like swindler and confidence man to contemporary buzzwords like plagiarismtruthiness and fake news. More than just telling tales of hoaxes revealed, Young discusses the theory of the hoax and the effects of the deception on politics, online news and everyday life then and now

The Status of Fake News

According to a new survey by Pew Research Center entitled, “The Future of Truth and Misinformation online”, most Americans suspect that made-up news is having an impact. About two-in-three U.S. adults (64%) say fabricated news stories cause a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events. This sense is shared widely across incomes, education levels, partisan affiliations and most other demographics. Though they sense these stories are spreading confusion, Americans express a fair amount of confidence in their own ability to detect fake news, with about four-in-ten (39%) feeling very confident that they can recognize news that is fabricated and another 45% feeling somewhat confident.

Some Americans also say they themselves have shared fake news. Overall, 23% say they have shared a made-up news story, with 14% saying they shared a story they knew was fake at the time and 16% having shared a story they later realized was fake. When it comes to how to prevent the spread of fake news, many Americans expect social networking sites, politicians and the public itself to do their share. Fully 45% of U.S. adults say government, politicians and elected officials bear a great deal of responsibility for preventing made-up stories from gaining attention, 43% say this is the public’s responsibility, and 42% say it is part of the job of social networking sites and search engines.

Misinformation – How Facts and Fiction Intermingle on Social Media

Now that nearly two-thirds of Americans get at least some of their news from social media, we all need to stop and think about how our biases and our exposure to misinformation affects the way we perceive the news and even how we fight against false claims. The New York Times recently featured an article entitled How Fiction Becomes Fact on Social Media that focuses on just those concerns.

The article reminds us that it is our, often subconscious, psychological biases that make so many of us vulnerable to misinformation. Skepticism about what we read as “news” online is a good start. However, our own innate biases will let certain things pass as “likely,” researchers have found. We all need to remember that Facebook, Google, and Twitter have their own skin in the game and that they are serving up “juicy” news and information that keeps us coming back for more. It’s so easy to pass along stories before you have a chance to really think about them or look at the source. Repetition can also make a story seems credible if you read the same news headline over and over again. As one expert put it, “We overweight information from people we know.” This Sounds like the way news was passed around back in high school, doesn’t it?

Turning Your Kids Into Web Detectives

While kids are great at signing up for and using social media, chances are they are not very good at evaluating and vetting the news and other information that appears in their online feed. So what are some fact-checking resources your kids (and you!) can use to verify or debunk the information they find online? Some of you may have heard of sites like FactCheck.org, PolitiFact.com, and Snopes.com. The first two are mostly interested in truth in politics. Snopes is famous as a site to check out internet rumors. One you may not be familiar with is OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan organization that tracks the influence of money in U.S. politics and is probably aimed more at older students and adults. The last isn’t a site that performs the fact checking, but instead is a tool that lets you fact-check things you find online. The internet “Archive Way back Machine” lets you see how a website looked and what it said, at different points in the past. That can be very valuable to see how, for example, the US government treated different topics under different administrations or at different times under the same administration. Want to see The New York Times’ home page, on just about any day since 1996? It’s there as well as Google’s homepage from 1998. The site can be a little distracting though, so make sure kids know what they are looking for specifically before they dive in.

Evaluating the Quality of Online Information

A newly updated article on the Edutopia site (supported by the George Lucas foundation) on evaluating the quality of resources online is worth reviewing with your kids, especially before they start on any research project. Part of the article addresses how to be a healthy skeptic, providing a particularly helpful list of questions we should all ask ourselves when conducting online research.

“Fake News” – Advice on How to Combat It From a Media Literacy Expert

The term "fake news" has highlighted media literacy "in a way that nothing has before," asserts Michelle Ciulla Lipkin of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. A new survey also shows that nearly everyone is guilty of sharing fake news at one time or another. In a Q&A on the PBS Newshour site, Lipkin fields questions on the topic and offers advice for teachers and parents to help keep themselves from falling victim to fake news stories. Ciulla Lipkin’s first bit of advice? Stop lumping all dubious content into one category called fake news and instead help kids understand the role of bias in the media. 

Digital Citizenship 101

A recent EdTech article titled 3 Basic Digital Citizenship Standards All Educators Should Know and Teach, is a great read for both educators and parents. The article reminds adults that children look to them for media literacy tips, which is especially important in today’s news climate, with information posing as reliable not always being accurate. Parents and other significant adults also need to remind young people of the consequences of their digital actions and that a key part of digital etiquette is the understanding of copyright laws and plagiarism. In addition, both parents and students need to also understand the regulations that schools must follow to protect student data and privacy.

Facebook Targets Fake News and Shareholders Ask for Risk Assessment

Facebook has announced that it is targeting "the worst of the worst" on its platform to curtail the spread of fake news by shutting down offending accounts and labeling misinformation. The company's shareholders have submitted a proposal asking Facebook to prepare a report on how fake news on the platform could pose risks to democracy and affect the company itself.

Wondering About the Validity of that Site?

Ever wonder about the underlying motivation of a site – satire, conspiracy, rumor mill, fake news – but do not know where to check your suspicions? Take a look at this Google Doc entitled False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources from Melissa Zimdars, an Assistant Professor of Communication & Media at Merrimack College, for a tremendous alphabetical list of suspect sites and the clones of some reputable sites that are trying to disguise themselves as legitimate. It is a good place to start for checking out any gut feelings you have about a site that you or your children have found.

Spotting Fake News - Some Good Questions to Ask

Misinformation in the form of fake or misleading news is on everyone’s mind these days. What are some questions you should be asking when you or your children analyze a news story for validity? Take a look at this chart from Project Look Sharp at Ithaca College, and think about printing it off for you and your children to use as a guide. Browse the site for other useful quick check guides such as Separating Fact from Fiction, and workshops that your school or parent–teacher groups might be interested in.

Digital Access Increases Kids Engagement in Politics

According to a recent article from the NY Times, the obsession with politics that has many adult Americans fiercely following the news has filtered down to their children. Teachers say their middle- and high-school students are more engaged than ever in politics. Students say their social media news feeds, including Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, make it easier for them to keep up with current events. Of course that also means you need to discuss with your children the need to vet and confirm what they read or see online.

Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

Misinformation can comes in many forms, including pictures. How can we learn to identify “Photoshopped” or digitally manipulated pictures? While there are numerous points to consider when analyzing pictures, there are some basics you and your children should pay attention to. These include considering the source of the image, looking at the aesthetics (angle, possible cropping, distance from the subject and more) and examining the caption for an agenda or possible verified source. For more on this, check out this article: Want to resist the post-truth age? Learn to analyze photos like an expert would.

5 Ways to Spot Fake News and More Media Savvy Tips

Got a minute? Take a look at the some of the short advice videos on the Common Sense Media site for some great videos that could start a discussion with your kids about particular digital safety issues. Topics include ways to spot fake news, four great fact-checking sites, five internet safety tips, five tips for dealing with haters and trolls and much more.

Newsela and Fake News Initiative

Education startup Newsela, in partnership with the American Press Institute, is teaching kids to be more discerning when consuming online news material. Servicing over one million American teachers, the organization started out by teaching literacy skills to kids through online articles, and has now taken on a more “civic-minded role” after the election. Questions such as “Where do the facts come from?” and “Is there a bias?” have been added to their usual article comprehension list. According to the company, both children and adults today need someone to show them the way to question news sources.

The News on Fake News Isn’t Good

According to a Slate.com article by Alexander Burgoyne and David Hambrick, human brains are wired to retain only the gist of information consumed, creating difficulty in remembering the source of news and whether it is flagged as fake or not. Exposure to fake news could even lead us to “remember” things that never happened. Other research has shown that people are vulnerable to false memories even when they are explicitly warned that they may be exposed to misinformation.  This might undermine efforts by Facebook and others to curb false news on social media, a problem particularly prevalent during the presidential election and certainly something you might want to talk with your children about as part of your ongoing discussion of digital literacy and citizenship.