7.8

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.

Watch on YouTube

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 

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Example Mindmap for the Search Topic "Montessori Schools" by Kayleigh Francis:

Montessori schools mindmap featuring 4 sources with a description of whether each source is credible and what was learned from the sourceThis image is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

Example Mindmap for the Search Topic "Homeschooling" by Sara Shea:

Example mindmap for the search topic Homeschooling with 4 sources and a description of what was learned and whether the source is credibleThis image is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

Activity 2: Create a News Evaluation Tool

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Example News Evaluation Tool by Sophia Hajjar:

Mindmap of Detecting Fake News: Does it PPASE the test. Popularity, prose, advertisements, structure, evidence This image is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

Activity 3: Evaluate the Benefits and Challenges of Getting Political News on 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 1-in-5 across all age groups. Those getting political news from social media also tend to be less well-informed about political issues and policies (Pew Research Center, July 30, 2020).

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Evaluate the Benefits and Challenges of Digital News and Social Media to a Democratic Society by Maria Trifiro

Activity 4: Investigate Twitter's Blue Check Verification Policy

Twitter is an important source of political news for many social media users, and the nature of information on the site has changed dramatically since Elon Musk became owner and CEO in late October 2022. Musk changed the site's "blue check" verification policy that previously served as a way for users to confirm that authentic information came from actual people or organizations.

Twitter verified badgeTwitter verified badge | Public Domain

Under the new policy, users are required to pay for verification status (Twitter Is Officially Ending Its Old Vertification Process on April 1, CBSNews, March 24, 2023). Many individuals and organizations have refused to do so, and, as a result, it has become even easier for those posting on Twitter to impersonate other people, to claim to be a public agency or local politican or government official, or to present totally false and politically damaging information. Essentially anyone can post anything and users are left to decide for themselves what is true and what is not.

Additional Resources

Connecting to the Building Democracy for All eBook

Building Democracy for All: Social Media, Digital News, and the Spread of Misinformation

Connecting to the Standards