Fake News: “False news stories, often of a sensational nature, created to be widely shared online for the purpose of generating ad revenue via web traffic or discrediting a public figure, political movement, company, etc.” 

–Time Magazine

Tips to spot Fake News

There has been an explosion of misinformation and conspiracy theories on the web, amplified by social media, about COVID19 and current events. Online rumors and misinformation have created confusion, chaos and some hoaxes have induced violence with loss of life. To discern today’s online experience, multiple studies have suggested everyone needs to be digital media literate with the ability to evaluate information on various digital platforms.

To counter Fake News, Sarah Blakeslee and her team of librarians at California State University, Chico (CSU Chico) developed the CRAAP test as a guide to discern whether or not a web item is Fake News. It has become widely used by higher education librarians at universities to educate incoming students about Fake News.

The CRAAP test aims to make it easier for everyone, not just educators and students, to determine if their sources can be trusted. By employing the test while evaluating sources, anyone can reduce the likelihood of using unreliable information or fake news.

In researching sources for this blog post, I found that one of the best compendium of articles, infographics and videos about fake news is a web site developed by Madison Area Technical College.  It has resources to explain why Fake News is created, tips for spotting Fake News, CRAAP test, fact checking and other topics related to Fake News. Miami Dade College also has a good web site about Fake News as well. Facebook which is known to be fertile digital grounds for viral misinformation spread, has taken some steps to educate users to identify false information.  Their “Tips to Spot False News” consists of ten strategies readers can use to identify misleading stories.

Election 2020 and Fake News

Staying informed online for election information has its risks. Unlike a print publisher, digital news providers can observe, store, and analyze your every news choice, how long you interacted with it, whether you shared it and what you did after viewing it. With such data, it can filter what you see, showing you more content that aligns with your worldview—essentially putting you in your very own “news bubble.”

BEWARE – Sometimes this filtering leads readers to made-up or fake news, such as stories about 5G cellphone towers found to cause COVID-19(!) or that drinking bleach kills the virus (it does not!!!).  Facebook and other social media have taken steps to identify such hoaxes, but more are posted every day and some get past their filters. Also, they get millions of “likes” from users.

Using the CRAAP test and other digital media literacy tools, we can inspect election news for accuracy and validity.