This post is part of a series published as part of the University of Southampton’s Living and Working on the Web module. To find out more, including links to all of this year’s student blogs, check out the UOSM2008 website.
Task: Evaluate how to assess the reliability and authenticity of online information
The “fake news” bubble
“Fake news” is an inescapable term of the zeitgeist, in part thanks to politicians using it to discredit journalists (Juliane Lischka, 2017), Macedonian teenagers creating hoaxes to share widely across Facebook for easy ad revenue (Samanth Subramanian, 2017; Craig Silverman, 2016), discussions around journalistic standards (James Ball, 2017; Mark Di Stefano, 2018), and social networks endlessly vacillating on how best to handle it all (Mark Zuckerberg, 2017; Adam Mosseri, 2018, Alex Kantrowitz, 2018). Google Trends data shows an explosion in related search activity around 2016’s US elections and close associations with Donald Trump, broadcasters like CNN and Fox, and verification services like Snopes.
How to (potentially) handle it
- Proactively seek content from contrasting sources to prevent filter bubbles, where algorithmic personalisation and our curation limit the viewpoints we’re exposed to online (Eli Pariser, 2011)
- React with careful consideration, verifying sources and assessing credibility before sharing
- Improve statistical literacy to better understand poor, misleading, or inaccurate data presentation (John Burn-Murdoch, 2013; Agata Kwapien, 2015)
- Approach everything – not just what we’re inclined to disbelieve – with skepticism
- Resist baseless conspiracy, lest help fuel anti-expertise sentiment (Henry Mance, 2016)
How can we apply this framework to an example? Here’s one from the “Learning in the Network Age” MOOC (FutureLearn, 2017):
- Ball, J. (2017). “How can we fight back against fake news and post-truth politics?”, New Statesman.
- Ball, J. (2017). Post-truth: How bullshit conquered the world.
- Burn-Murdoch, J. (2013). “Why you should never trust a data visualisation”, The Guardian.
- Di Stefano, M. (2018). “The BBC’s Media Editor appears to have delivered fake news in a lecture about fake news”, BuzzFeed.
- Dodd, R., Rann, A., & Voigt-Hill, X. (2017). “#UOSM2012: A world of post-truths”
- Kantrowitz, A. (2018). “This is Facebook’s news survey”, BuzzFeed.
- Kwapien, A. (2015). “Remove your rose tinted glasses: Data visualizations designed to mislead”, Datapine.
- Lischka, J. (2017). “A badge of honor?”, Journalism Studies.
- Mance, H. (2016). “Britain has had enough of experts, says Gove”, Financial Times.
- Mosseri, A. (2018). “News Feed FYI: Helping ensure news on Facebook is from trusted sources”, Facebook Newsroom
- Pariser, E. (2011). “Beware online ‘filter bubbles'”
- Silverman, C. (2016). “This analysis shows how viral fake election news stories outperformed real news on Facebook”, BuzzFeed.
- Subramanian, S. (2017). “Inside the Macedonian fake news complex”, Wired.
- University of Southampton (2017). “Learning in the Network Age”, FutureLearn.
- Zuckerberg, M. (2017). “Building global community”
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