CoverMedia Literacy Activities for Learning Civics ConceptsDefining Critical Media LiteracyChapter 1. Foundations of the United States Political SystemTopic 1: Democracy in Social Media Policies and Community StandardsTopic 2: The Internet as a Public UtilityTopic 3: 21st Century Women STEM InnovatorsTopic 4: Media Coverage of Kings, Queens, and Royal FamiliesTopic 5: Representations of Native Americans in Films, Local History Publications, and School MascotsChapter 2. The Development of United States GovernmentTopic 1: Declarations of Independence on Social MediaTopic 2: Media Marketing and Government Regulating of Self-Driving Cars and Electric VehiclesTopic 3: Representations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the MediaTopic 4: Political Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American MusicalTopic 5: Bill of Rights on TwitterChapter 3. Institutions of United States GovernmentTopic 1: Hollywood Movies About the Branches of GovernmentTopic 2: Writing an Impeachment Press ReleaseTopic 3: Members of Congress' Use of Social MediaTopic 4: Political Impacts of Public Opinion PollsTopic 5: Website Design for New Political PartiesChapter 4. The Rights and Responsibilities of CitizensTopic 1: Immigration in the NewsTopic 2: Portrayals of Immigrants in Television and FilmTopic 3: COVID-19 Information EvaluationTopic 4: Women Political Leaders in the MediaTopic 5: Online Messaging by Special Interest GroupsTopic 6: Digital Games for Civic EngagementTopic 7: Social Media and the ElectionsTopic 8: Media Spin in the Coverage of Political DebatesTopic 9: Celebrities' Influence on PoliticsTopic 10: Political Activism Through Social MediaTopic 11: Media Recruitment of Public Sector WorkersTopic 12: Images of Teachers and TeachingTopic 13: For Whom Is and Could Your School Be NamedTopic 14: Representing Trans IdentitiesTopic 15: Media Framing of the Events of January 6, 2021Topic 16: Music as Protest ArtTopic 17: PACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the MediaChapter 5. The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court DecisionsTopic 1: Prohibition in the MediaTopic 2: The Equal Rights Amendment on Twitter and Other Social MediaTopic 3: Civil War News Stories and Recruitment AdvertisementsTopic 4: Representations of Gender and Race on CurrencyTopic 5: The Equality Act on TwitterTopic 6: Reading Supreme Court Dissents AloudTopic 7: Television Cameras in CourtroomsChapter 6. The Structure of State and Local GovernmentTopic 1: Native American Mascots and LogosTopic 2: A Constitution for the InternetTopic 3: Military Recruitment and the MediaTopic 4: Your Privacy on Social MediaTopic 5: Pandemic Policy Information in the MediaTopic 6: Gendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in PoliticsTopic 7: Environmental Campaigns Using Social MediaTopic 8: Trusted Messengers, the Media, and the PandemicTopic 9: Online Campaigning for Political OfficeTopic 10: Advertising the Lottery Online and In PrintTopic 11: Local Governments, Social Media and Digital DemocracyTopic 12: Protecting the CommonsChapter 7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media LiteracyTopic 1: Press Freedom in the United States and the WorldTopic 2: Objectivity and Reporting the News from All SidesTopic 3: Investigative Journalism and Social ChangeTopic 4: News Photographs & Newspaper DesignTopic 5: How Reporters Report EventsTopic 6: Recommendation Algorithms on Social Media PlatformsTopic 7: Fake News Investigation and EvaluationTopic 8: Paywalls and Access to Online NewsTopic 9: Critical Visual Analysis of Online and Print MediaTopic 10: Memes and TikToks as Political Cartoons

Topic 7: Fake News Investigation and Evaluation

People get news today from sources ranging from television, social media (e.g., Twitter, TikTok) and legacy news outlets (i.e., New York Times, Washington Post) as well as teachers, parents, family members, and peers. Yet, there is a real difference in quality and reliability between real news and fake news.

Fake news resembles real news in form (it usually has headlines, images, quotes, and a news-like look on screens), but not in how it is produced organizationally. Real news is derived following the standards and rules of journalism. It is fact-based and fact-checked from verified sources. It is presented objectively and truthfully in a journalistic style of writing. It is independent of political or corporate influences. Fake news, by contrast, is just what the term says -- information that is intentionally false and misleading (Molina, et al., 2021).

Misinformation and Disinformation: Thinking Critically about Information Sources from the College of Staten Island offers a further explanation of fake news and misleading, unreliable and deliberately false information.

Given the amount of fake and false news online and in print, every individual must become their own fact checker and news analyst - determining for themselves what is credible and reliable information and what is fake and false misinformation.

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The following activities are designed to help you act as a critical news evaluator.

You can get more background information from Topic 7.4 Social Media, Digital News, and the Spread of Misinformation and Topic 7.5 Evaluating Print and Online Media in our Building Democracy for All eBook.

Activity 1: Analyze Your Online Search Habits 

Montessori schools mindmap featuring 4 sources with a description of whether each source is credible and what was learned from the source
Example Mindmap for the Search Topic "Montessori Schools" by Kayleigh Francis is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0
Example mindmap for the search topic Homeschooling with 4 sources and a description of what was learned and whether the source is credible
Example Mindmap for the Search Topic "Homeschooling" by Sara Shea is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

Activity 2: Create a News Evaluation Tool

Mindmap of Detecting Fake News: Does it PPASE the test. Popularity, prose, advertisements, structure, evidence
Example News Evaluation Tool by Sophia Hajjar is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

Activity 3: Evaluate the Benefits and Challenges of Digital News and Social Media to a Democratic Society

Nearly half of adults ages 18 to 29 in this country get their political news mostly on social media. The figure is one in five across all ages groups. Those individuals also tend to be less well-informed about political issues and policies (Pew Research Center, July 30, 2020).

Additional Resources

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Evaluate the benefits and challenges of digital news and social media to a democratic society. (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T7.4]
  • ISTE Standards
    • Knowledge Constructor
      • 3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
      • 3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data, or other resources.
      • 3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication. 
      • 6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
      • 6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for the intended audiences.
  • DLCS Standards
    • Interpersonal and Societal Impact (CAS.c)
    • Digital Tools (DTC.a)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.8