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Fake news is more than just incorrect; it’s produced specifically to deceive. And the problem is growing, particularly on social media.
That’s why SAIT journalism instructor and a SAIT Cisco Research Chair in e-Learning, Tyler Nagel, is researching how fake news impacts SAIT students. In a wide-ranging survey Nagel conducted in late 2017, a majority of the 1,467 students who responded confessed to inadvertently sharing inaccurate information with friends or followers on social media.
“There are puzzles in how young people consume news now,” Nagel tells LINK. “The survey findings show — surprisingly — that students still place their greatest trust in print media but, unsurprisingly, use it the least. For most, their primary source of news is social media, the platform they’re most distrustful of.”
“For most, their primary source of news is social media, the platform they’re most distrustful of.”
Nagel says students surveyed admitted to behaviours that nurture fake news: less than half said they actually read news stories before sharing them. And few were very confident they could tell fake news from real news.
“There is hope, though: a vast majority of the students said fake news is a significant problem, indicating they might be open to potential solutions to the problem,” Nagel says. “Fake news spreads because of individual actions. Rethinking your behaviours can help fight the problem.”
Here are Nagel’s top tips to filter fakery from real news.
The best news comes from independent news organizations, not political parties or activist groups. Think about the source: is the article you’re reading published by a legitimate journalism organization? Is it produced by real journalists, or by public relations employees?
Take a close look at which news organizations you follow on social media. Make sure you’ve added all of the major Canadian media outlets and some international ones. When you see news that is proven to be not truthful or outright fake, stop following that account.
Is reading the news part of your daily routine or do you just see news items between other posts in your Twitter or Facebook feeds? Make the switch to intentional news consumption by taking time each day to actively read news.
Follow legitimate news organizations from across the political spectrum — including those you don’t agree with. Only following outlets you agree with contributes to the problem of online “filter bubbles” — an ideological separation between groups of people with different views. Exposing yourself to a wide variety of viewpoints online ensures you’re better informed.
Independent news organizations can’t continue to produce quality journalism without revenue. Support journalists by subscribing to a news organization or making a one-time donation to a non-profit news outlet like The Guardian or ProPublica.