Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Fake News

Fake News in the News

Understanding the Fake News Landscape

​In the long history of misinformation, the current outbreak of fake news has already secured a special place... But the concoction of alternative facts is hardly rare, and the equivalent of today’s poisonous, bite-size texts and tweets can be found in most periods of history, going back to the ancients. Robert Darnton, NYR Daily, Feb. 14, 2017
 

Most Americans like their choices in today’s information-saturated world, but 20% feel overloaded. Tensions occur when institutions place high information demands on people...Since the 1970s, the term “information overload” has captured society’s anxiety about the growth in the production of information having potentially bad consequences for people as they struggle to cope with seemingly constant streams of messages and images. The advent of the internet, it was thought, would only exacerbate this, with the onset of ubiquitous connectivity turning information overload into something even more debilitating. -- John Horrigan, Pew Research Center, Dec. 7, 2016

​     As a long-time academic librarian, I have spent a good part of my career teaching college students to think critically about information. And the fact is that I watch many of them struggle with the challenges of discovering, internalizing, evaluating and applying credible information. For me, the recent spate of stories about large segments of the population falling for fake news stories was no surprise.
     Making sense of information is hard, maybe increasingly so in today’s world. So what role have academic libraries played in helping people make sense of world bursting at the seams with information?  -- Donald Barclay, PBS NewsHour, Jan. 6, 2017

    Discerning fact from fiction in news and online content has never been more challenging. From “pizzagate”—false reports of a child sex ring operating in a DC pizza parlor—and creepy clown attacks to retweeted election headlines touting events that never happened, fake news is rampant. Twenty-three percent of Americans say they have shared fabricated reports, knowingly or not, according to a December Pew Research Center report.
    Librarians have an opportunity to take leadership in the current crisis. As proven authorities on information literacy, library professionals can help students analyze news authenticity. It’s time to step up to the plate.
    That requires expertise—and perseverance. While school librarians are updating lessons on news literacy, a recent study from researchers at Stanford University underscored the challenges of media and social media education for kids. Students’ ability to evaluate information on the Internet is “bleak,” according to the report. -- Linda Jacobson, Library School Journal, Jan. 1, 2017

    The Big Picture: When thousands of students respond to dozens of tasks there are endless variations. That was certainly the case in our experience. However, at each level—middle school, high school, and college—these variations paled in comparison to a stunning and dismaying consistency. Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak. Our “digital natives” may be able to fit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfe to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that fows through social media channels, they are easily duped -- STANFORD HISTORY EDUCATION GROUP, Nov. 22, 2016

​     Fake news comes in many flavors, like satire or intentional hoaxes, but computer scientist Filippo Menczer said sensational news and social media campaigns filled with mistruths — like the PizzaGate story — started to surge on the internet around 2010.
     Blaming readers for spreading fake news from a cognitive perspective is somewhat equivalent to blaming a baby for soiling itself. They can’t help it...Trending news stories, both fake and real, buy into what’s called the attention economy, whereby “if people pay attention to a certain topic, more information on that topic will be produced.” -- Nsikan Akpan, PBS NewsHour, Dec. 5, 2016​