Today, Friday 20 January, is the day that the US and the world will see the swearing in of the 45th American President: Donald Trump. At 10:30pm tonight, HK time, the inauguration ceremony begins. Ever since Trump won the election in early November, his time as president-elect has been fraught with insinuations, accusations, and CIA-backed evidence of election-tampering, hacking, and fake news dissemination.
Sooooo, what better time than now to write about the necessity of our critical thinking skills in the ‘fake news era’?!
Fake news isn’t a new concept. I did a quick search on our JSTOR database, searching “fake news” and I got over 100 hits, covering peer-reviewed journal articles, magazine articles, and the like. Some of these articles went back more than 10 years. And then, because I’m the curious sort, I Googled “fake news”…and got 28,700,000 hits in 0.49 seconds!! And so many of these stories are from 2017 alone!! But the point is, disinformation on the internet has been happening for a long time.
Let’s go back to fake news…one of my pet peeves is when people share posts on Facebook without checking their validity; these stories include missing persons, shocking revelations, and free giveaways for liking or sharing the post. I’ve always gone to www.snopes.com to do a quick fact check. Why do I do this? Honestly, I’d feel like an idiot for wilfully sharing misinformation! Two months ago, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg even weighed in on hoax news on Facebook. And a month ago, actor Denzel Washington criticised the media, stating an effect of “too much information…[is the] need to be first, not even to be true anymore. So what a responsibility you all have — to tell the truth…In our society, now it’s just first — who cares, get it out there. We don’t care who it hurts. We don’t care who we destroy. We don’t care if it’s true. Just say it, sell it.”
But nowadays, when so much information is being thrown at us, it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s false…and do we seriously have time to fact-check EVERYTHING?!
Here is a thought-provoking article from MediaShift, from 2015, entitled “How Lies Spread Faster Than Truth: A Study of Viral Content”. The author discusses the role of news organisations; he also provides evidence of the ripple effect that one fake news Tweet had upon social media.
In late November 2016, Stanford University published an article detailing how students have trouble distinguishing online fact from fiction. Researchers noted that students find it challenging to sift through all of the information available to them, trying to find and then judge reliable and accurate sources of information.
CDNIS students, here is where your critical thinking skills come in!! And don’t forget information literacy and media literacy essential skills.
EasyBib, the site that many of you know of as a citation helper, has written an article for students, to help in spotting fake news. The article gives 10 tips for identifying fake news; tips like reading the “About Us” page of a website and judging its credibility, learning a little about the author of the piece you’re reading, and deciding if direct quotes are used correctly or taken out of context. MindShift (mentioned earlier) has also recently published an article, “Finding Solutions for Fake News”.
So do yourself a favour: if you think of yourself as a global citizen, a deep thinker, or someone who cares about the world you’re growing up into…do your research…do some fact checking…do due diligence to ensure you are the best informed of your generation!
images: Mark Zuckerberg, Denzel Washington, critical thinking