Misinformation and fake news in 2022

Misinformation and fake news in 2022

2022 has begun and fake news continues. To help reduce misinformation in one’s news diet, your IU East Campus Librarians have some tips.

(Why memes make for terrible sources of information. Publicity photo provided by Peter Jackson, parody by KT Lowe)

Skip the memes

How do you know that meme is real?  Sure, it’s got a goofy picture on it and says things you agree with, but that doesn’t make it truthful.  Memes communicate lots of different kinds of information, not all of which is easily categorizable, according to Molloy College professor Jamie Cohen.  In a meme, context is everything, which isn’t always communicable or understandable to a broad audience.  Memes may also serve as a form of folklore, in that they are transmitted person-to-person.  Memes and folklore, including folk stories, share a lot in common, particularly in that both were initially intended to transmit information.  However, neither folklore nor multiple potential meanings makes memes factual.  Fact-checking memes can be difficult because of the need for context and their lack of textual content in many cases.  However, Walter Butler, Aloha Sargent and Kelsey Smith have developed a good set of guidelines for such an activity.  Because memes are visual in nature, they recommend using Google Image Search to check for similar content.  This has two benefits: If a meme has been proven false, you should get results that lead to fact checking sites.  If an image has not been fact checked, you can get information about it that can possibly help you determine if it’s true, such as the time and place where an image was taken or news articles which include it.

(Need help? Check out the fact checkers, such as FactCheck.org and the IFCN.)

Rely on fact checkers

A number of journalists and information professionals work tirelessly to check memes, viral stories and fake news.  While fake news stories continue to spread faster than real news can catch up, fact checkers offer a full explanation with each of their fact checks, making them both reliable and useful as teaching tools for understanding how to identify a fake news story.  Look for verified signatories of the International Fact Checking Network, who all follow professional guidelines and standards for assessing their fact checks.  US-based signatories include the Associated Press, Check Your Fact and Politifact.  And don’t forget to check out the IU East Fake News Guide, which has a lot of resources for finding real news and detecting fake news in one spot.

(This isn’t quite what we mean by reading laterally. Microsoft stock image.)

Start reading laterally

Read SIDEWAYS?  Is that what we’re asking you to do?  Well, not exactly.  Lateral reading expands your reading by allowing you to fact check as you go along, much like the professionals do.  When reading a news article, meme or other item you want to double check, open a second browser tab, and use that extra tab to look up information such as the author of the article, the credibility of the publisher and information found in the item.  Assess those results – if most of your findings come from credible news sources and primary sources like statistics, government sites and reports, you might be dealing with accurate information.  If, on the other hand, your sources tend to link to conspiracy theories, false information or cannot be verified at all, you may wish to look elsewhere for information.

(Look to real news outlets for information, which all share certain characteristics regarding quality control, transparency, and emphasis on information. Microsoft stock image.)

Go to good quality news sources

What makes a news source good?  While the telltale signs of a poor news source can be obvious, a good one may be more difficult to examine.  Good news sources, according to Michael Caulfield of the University of Washington-Vancouver, identifies four main aspects of good news sources.  First, they give you their process for identifying and correcting errors in their work.  No news outlet is perfect, so it’s always useful to know the retraction and correction policies of your news outlets.  If you cannot find one, that’s a clue to look for better news.  Second, you, the reader, will easily be able to tell the differences among opinions/commentary, news articles and paid content.  You will also find links to sources that will verify the information you are examining.  Third, real news outlets hire journalists with backgrounds in journalism and grounding in journalistic ethics.  While fewer news outlets are posting their ethics handbooks online, news sources like NPR and the New York Times continue to do so.  Fourth and last, the goal of real news sources is to present factual information.  They tend to use language that is less emotionally charged, verify their claims with good sources and include less bias than fake outlets.

Still not sure about what it takes to find good quality news sources?  Want to know more about fake news and how to prevent it?  Just checking to see fi a news story is true or not?  Ask us! Email iueref@iue.edu or click here.

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