Learn to recognize common indicators of fake news, understand the consequences of careless sharing, and learn to become a fact-checker.
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Media bias falls on a spectrum. News stories can be classified as less/more biased instead of simply biased/unbiased. Although media bias is not fake news, consuming news from media sources which only agree with our worldviews could prevent us from getting a balanced perspective of an issue.
When identifying bias in news stories, we can look out for these signs: reporting tone, framing of the story, omission of relevant sources, choice of stories being reported on, and the lack of fairness/balance in reporting.
These are some of the common types of bias in news reporting:
The sharing of fake news has very real consequences that impact people's lives:
There is no shortage of material about fake news these days! Though the US is providing a wealth of excellent examples of Fake News, Canada is certainly not immune.
Can you think of some Canadian examples of Fake News?
In late 2015, several chain emails & Facebook posts claimed that refugees received more money than pensioners/veterans/welfare recipients. These claims were circulated widely, and are still being shared today.
This version is a fact-checked mark-up provided by Dr. Silvia D'Addario and York University students for Canadian Council for Refugees.
The term "fake news" can be a problematic term. It can easily be politicized and used as a weapon and to undermine news sources which may not agree with one's beliefs. Instead, the terms misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information may be better used to describe the many facets of fake news.
Adapted from: "Journalism, ‘Fake News’ & Disinformation: Handbook for Journalism Education and Training" by UNESCO is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Labelling a news story as "fake news" have been used by others as a way to dismiss stories which don't agree with their beliefs or values. The following are examples of what is generally not considered as fake news:
From the context of fake news, vertical reading involves examining the news source to determine the credibility of a news story. This could mean examining a news website's About Us page, looking at grammatical errors within the article, determining the author's bias, and checking the sources the authors used. However, depending solely on vertical reading can be problematic since content is easily created and fabricated online.
In addition to using vertical reading, another method of evaluating news is lateral reading. This involves going beyond the news source and performing further research on the news source, its authors, and information being presented in the news story.
Filter bubbles are created by algorithms and dictate what we see online. These personalized filters may be based on a combination of different elements, such as our search history, the websites we visited, the posts we comment on, or our location. These algorithms impact the content of our "information diet".
As users, we don't have much control on what gets into our filter bubble, and more importantly we don't know what gets edited out by these algorithms. Filter bubbles could feed us an information diet with mostly "information desserts" and not much "information vegetables". It poses the danger of intellectual isolation where we only see information that reinforces our views, or information that is within our comfort zones. This could potentially hinder our ability to think critically about a topic since algorithms have the power to edit out content which challenges or broadens our worldviews.
Fact-checking websites can be useful tools in determining if a news story is accurate. These sites perform the fact-checking by reviewing the story's claims and verifying the validity of the information and authors. Check out some of these fact-checking websites.
Reverse Image Search Tools: find for the origins of an image by uploading or linking to the image:
There is a lot of talk about ways that tech companies can combat fake news, but there are many stumbling blocks.
Chrome and Mozilla have a variety of browser extensions - open in a new tab that try to flag fake news. If you are trying one out, be sure to check what criteria they use to categorize sites. Some conspiracy sites have created their own detectors that will flag all mainstream media as fake!
It will be interesting to watch this technology develop, but for now, we recommend that you be your own detective!