Have you ever seen an article on Facebook, Twitter, email, or possibly on Google, and clicked on it because of the title? Then you began reading, and made it half way through, captivated by the information, only to discover that you are on The Onion or The Beaverton? Or maybe you were watching a video snippet on Facebook or Youtube, uploaded by an unknown source, and 10 seconds in you see Rick Mercer or another comedian/host spin around and show their face in what you believed was legitimate. There are pirates out there, pillaging the space on your social media and internet spaces, trying to take your attention away from the real sources!
Fake news is spreading everywhere. Previously this just meant that our good friend Rick Mercer would be showing a satire advert, or a friend would be sharing a too-cheesy-to-be-true article from the Onion or Beaverton. However, in recent times this has increased into a tactic of manipulation. Instead of using this for entertainment purposes, people are making serious investments trying to control your access to information, manipulating it to fit their ideology, whether or not the facts are true.
You might say we should just be using a site like Snopes to protect ourselves, however even they are having trouble keeping up (and there is also the problem that Snopes is going through internal corporate welfare). The fact is that in this modern day and age, we have to be face checking using multiple sources, and in general we as a digital society have to learn to be smarter. Here is an interesting rant Rick Mercer has on the topic surrounding fake news, and its simple acceptance in the modern times.
So this might make you wonder, what can we do? As an educator, what can I do to help counteract the spread of fake news. The answer is right there, Education. Educators have an incredible power and responsibility, they are able to alter the direction of society overtime, influence the popularity of certain career paths, make or break the future of a student. Fake news is no different from problems of the past, the only issue is that in many cases we as the educators are ignorant in topics surrounding fake news. You have to dedicate time to research fake news sites, and possible remedies such as Snopes. You have to follow the current events with a fine toothed comb, deciphering what is real, what is bias, and what is fake. And lastly, should we try to shelter our students from fake news? Absolutely not! Memories, history, and lessons learned are what allow us to change and improve in the future. You should critic articles right in front of the class, with your students giving their own input! Is this article bias towards a certain political idea? Is there any cues in this fake article that should set off red flags? This is one of the biggest things that will help your students in the future, whether they know it or not!
Like we talked about last week with technology and change: it is inevitable. Fake news, as sad as it might seem, is now part of mainstream society. Previously we were at a deficit for access to information, but that is no longer the case anymore. We don’t need as much skill in finding information as we did in the past. Instead, the biggest skill for success with information usage is critical thinking: the ability to approach information from multiple perspectives and question its authenticity. We are in a unique situation right now, where we just witnessed the use of fake news in an attempt to influence the presidential election. I am not doing to question whether or not that fake news did have an affect, but the fact that it was used with the intention of manipulation is a cause for concern. Critical thinking and a bit of personal independence is the only way we will be able to counter this trend. Fake news is not the past, it is not a small trend, and it is not someone else’s problem. Fake news is now our reality, and if we are going to have any hope for success against it, we have to ensure we are informed.