The rise of fake news sparks calls for youth media literacy

The term “fake news” has become more recognized than ever before with misinformation spreading on social media networks like Facebook, President Trump’s incessant false accusations and claims, and late reports of Russian hackers influencing the 2016 election. During December 2016, an online survey concluded that approximately 55% of 1,605 respondents recognized that they have consumed fake news more than once. Many American citizens have decided to take responsibility for their own consumption of information to combat the spread of fake news.

Many people are looking for plausible methods to combating fake news in their lives. The Project for an Informed Electorate at California State University, Sacramento has even created a guide to help people spot it:

1. Check the source. Have you heard of it? Is it referenced by other credible sources? Is there an author listed?
2. Is it a joke? If it’s too wacky, it may be satire.
3. Do some detective work. Do they reference reputable institutions or varying viewpoints? Do they interview multiple sources?
4. Consult the experts: Politifact.com, FactCheck.org, and Snopes.com.
5. Put yourself in their shoes. If the article was saying the same thing about your side, would it sound ridiculous?
6. Check your biases. Is the article objective? Is the content trying to evoke emotion?

Sometimes, people will actively search for evidence to confirm their own beliefs or theories, otherwise known as confirmation bias. This practice of interpreting evidence has been labeled as dangerous because it ruins constructive communication between people of opposing views.

“I do fear the encapsulation of options and ideas within social media,” said Lilia Luciano, an ABC10 Investigative Reporter, at a Sacramento Central Library panel discussion about fake news. “When we surround ourselves with like-minded people or people who share the same opinion, that reinforces the confirmation bias, reinforces our ideas.”

Here is an example of fake news.

Considering the vast amount of information in social media and on the Internet and without any knowledge or training, many wonder how young adults or children will combat fake news. According to Erin McNeill, founder and president of Media Literacy Now (MLN), media literacy is a viable solution. According to MLN, media literacy is the ability to think critically about media messages as well as to create messages using media. Many people believe teaching media literacy to young people is necessary because kids actually don’t have the adequate knowledge or skills to do so. In November 2016, Stanford researchers reported that middle school, high school, and college level students had difficulty judging the credibility of information online. According to the National Association for Media Literacy Education, an organization dedicated to expanding media education, media literacy skills can help youth:

1. Develop critical thinking skills.
2. Understand how media messages shape our culture and society.
3. Identify target marketing strategies.
4. Recognize what the media maker wants us to believe or do.
5. Name the techniques of persuasion used.
6. Recognize bias, spin, misinformation, and lies.
7. Discover the parts of the story that are not being told.
8. Evaluate media messages based on our own experiences, skills, beliefs, and values.
9. Create and distribute our own media messages.
10. Advocate for a changed media system.

Fake news and possibly the lack of media literacy played a role in the 2016 election and are present in our form of politics today but many people are now aware of this and are creating solutions to combat it.