The Misinformation Age

The twenty-first century has come with it an explosion of information available to the general public. Gone are the days when the local public library was your best chance at finding credible sources. The Internet allows users to connect with the database for any library in the world, or look up on of the thousands of online articles being published each day. However, because the internet is available to everyone, and it is not in the best interest of everyone to create credible sources, misinformation and fake news can be created and spread online disguising itself as credible.

Online misinformation is often spread over social media platforms, especially in forums dedicated to politics. Katy Steimetz’s article How Your Brain Tricks You Into Believing Fake News explains how discredited websites can use their digital formatting to fool people into thinking they are credible. She also talks about the efforts that platforms are taking to try to quell the spread of fake news, and the First Amendment challenges they face while doing so. Fake or exaggerated news stories are often the stories that spread the fastest, because many stories are structures in such a way that is both feasible and provoking of an angry reaction.

So what can be done to counter students mistaking of misinformation as credible? Mike Caulfield presents his recommended strategy in his article The “Always Check” Approach to Online Literacy. The “Always Check” approach details several questions a reader must ask themselves when looking over a source. This strategy is in place to ensure that the source that a student is citing does not contain blatant misinformation. This approach utilizes sites such as Google and Wikipedia to quickly find out about the organizations that articles originate from, and whether these organizations can be trusted to provide true information. Teaching students how to verify the legitimacy of their sources is extremely valuable for their futures in higher education and even extends into the real world. If students know how to check their sources, they become less likely to fall for other forms of misinformation they come across in other aspects of their lives.

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