This was not in fact true – it was an early example of fake news, or, as Kellyanne Conway likes to call it, ‘alternative facts.’ In 2017 we are surrounded by the phenomenon of false or fake news in a ‘post truth’ internet age. Being connected 24/7 in a digital world means demand for instant facts without taking to time to check and verify their accuracy and authority. Even internet founder, Berners-Lee, agrees ‘it is too easy for misinformation to propagate’ via social media and clickbait news websites.
So how do we teach our children to navigate the muddied waters to find the truth and become informed 21st century citizens? A recent Stanford study found an alarming number of students were unable to identify fake from real news. It is our responsibility as educators to teach and demonstrate critical information literacy skills. We can’t stop the flow of misinformation but we can control the response of the reader by teaching students to evaluate and analyse information sources from the web or in the media. This can be as easy as taking the CRAAP test:
- Currency- when was the information published?; has it been revised or updated?; how old are the cited sources?
- Relevancy- is the information relevant?; who is the intended audience?
- Authority – who is the author or publisher?; what are their credentials?; check the About section of a webpage.
- Accuracy – is the information supported by evidence?; corroborate facts with other sources; check sources of quotations; conduct a reverse image Google search.
- Purpose – what is the point of view?; is there any bias?; is the purpose to inform or persuade?
Google and Facebook are both working on applications which will assist users in determining fake or false news based on new search algorithms. Whilst never 100% accurate it will still require us to be robust and critical fact-checkers. In the meantime, we can teach our children to be responsible producers of information by publishing only true stories and not engaging in mindless click baiting from dubious websites.
The 1874 New York Zoo calamity caused unnecessary panic but was ousted as the fabrication of an imaginative editor who wrote in the last paragraph: ‘Of course, the entire story given above is a pure fabrication. Not one word of it is true.’
And that’s the truth, believe me!
Ros Peters, Information Services Coordinator