Fake News, Information Literacy, and Critical Thinking

November 22, 2017

Since the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, stories about fake news have dominated the headlines.  Much has been written, but many questions remain unanswered.

  • Exactly how widespread is the problem? 
  • To what extent are we in uncharted territory? 
  • How can we overcome the challenges posed by the proliferation of unreliable information?

While “fake news” may not be an entirely new phenomenon, there is little doubt that the rise of social media has transformed the nature of the problem.   

In the Digital Era, it has become more difficult for individual students to distinguish between credible news sources from outright lies as many websites and publications have become skilled at disguising themselves as legitimate new sources.   Fortunately, current research indicates that direct information literacy instruction can help

Many academic libraries have begun developing and compiling resources to help students better navigate these increasingly troubled waters.  Below is a short sample of the types of resources available.  If you’re interested in learning more about these resources and others, please contact your campus librarian today.  

Handouts and Instructional Materials:

  • How to Spot Fake News” Handout (IFLA):  Infographic that outlines eight essential steps for detecting fake news stories.
  • A Field Guide to Fake News: A project developed by the Public Data Lab that helps students examine the use of digital methods to trace the production, circulation and reception of fake news online.  The first three chapters are free to download.
  • “Critical Thinking About the News” Research Guide (UWC Waukesha): An online research guide created by UWC Waukesha Librarian, Kelley Hinton, for faculty, instructors, and other librarians who want delve deeper in the topic. 

Fact-Checkers and Other Resources:

  • Snopes: One of the oldest and most highly-regarded fact-checking websites.  Researchers analyze urban legends and other common Internet rumors.
  • PundiFact: A project of the Tampa Bay Times and the Poynter Institute, dedicated to checking the accuracy of claims by pundits, columnists, bloggers, political analysts, the hosts and guests of talk shows, and other members of the media.
  • TruthOrFiction: Get the truth about rumors, inspirational stories, virus warnings, hoaxes, scams, humorous tales, pleas for help, urban legends, prayer requests, calls to action, and other forwarded emails.
  • All-sides: Unlike regular news services, AllSides exposes bias and provides multiple angles on the same story so you can quickly get the full picture, not just one slant.
  • Duke Reporters’ Lab:  explores new forms of journalism, including fact-checking, which is growing around the world, empowering democracies and holding governments accountable, and structured journalism, which creates new forms of storytelling and beat reporting.