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Tag Archives: fake news

Nalaka’s take on responding to ‘fake news’

At a forum on Media and Development in Berlin yesterday, my friend Nalaka Gunewardena (who moderated a discussion) brought on a fresh perspective to the problem. It’s not about the tools per se that we could use to fight Fake News. It’s also about education, alliances and policy reform, .

We must also look for the symptoms in the loss of trust in journalism, he said. The need is to build structures that enhance and nurture quality journalism. In other words, create trustworthy messengers before trying to fix (or block) the pipes through which the messages flow. Plus the need to influence policy and literacy.

This is a lot more nuanced than just clamping down on media platforms or discrediting the sources – reactive steps.

So let’s get pro-active about a problem that didn’t arrive yesterday, and won’t go away soon.

I encourage you to read Nalaka’s post about this.

 

 

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Algorithms do make mistakes! A teaching moment after Vegas

It’s so easy to assume that ‘algorithms‘ can do no wrong. Did you even use the fancy word prior to ‘Search Engine Optimization’ ?

So Google’s statement that, after the Las Vegas tragedy (and the inaccurate news that ensued via social media) they had to go in and over-ride the algorithm, says volumes.

“Unfortunately, early this morning we were briefly surfacing an inaccurate 4chan website in our Search results for a small number of queries. Within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results. This should not have appeared for any queries, and we’ll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Here’s what is worth teaching.

  • A search result that pops up may not be accurate. In fact it can be deliberately misleading. (The Tom Petty headline, being the latest in ‘inadvertent’ mistakes.)
  • Cross-reference your ‘facts’. Read the whole article before drawing a conclusion.
  • The headline in a tweet or a trending FB post is an incomplete picture. Or often carries a bias. Former Facebook ‘news curators’ have admitted they were instructed to artificially inject selected stories into the trending news module.

An algorithm is just “a process or set of rules” that are set up in advance for sifting through data, and making calculations with complex variables. Algorithms are not writ in stone. Especially when there is some Artificial Intelligence involved, they are supposed to ‘learn’ from the complexity and adjust. Sometimes they aren’t good learners, and are easily misled, or tricked.

And so are we!

 
 

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Decoding what’s fake – and not just the News

I came across an excellent primer for students on How to Spot Fake News. It simplified a few things we (and students) could do to check if a story is credible.

In teaching Photoshop a big part of it is to get students to create something that seems plausible, but ‘fake.’ This week, one of my 6th graders worked on an animal face-off and was amazed at how real a photo-montage might seem, even though it was a silly cat-fight.

Back to the Common Sense Media article. It lists six things to check for:

  1. Who made this?
  2. Who is the target audience?
  3. Who paid for this? Or, who gets paid if you click on this?
  4. Who might benefit or be harmed by this message?
  5. What is left out of this message that might be important?
  6. Is this credible (and what makes you think that)?

 

I found a more insightful primer from Washington Post (Video below), which provided more ways to validate a story or an image. Such as:

  • Dragging an image into Google images
  • Downloading a Chrome Plugin for spotting Fake News
  • looking closely at the URL, often made to look like the original URL
  • Inspecting the image to see if it looks Photoshopped

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/60daed34-adb2-11e6-8f19-21a1c65d2043

Yes, many images we see are so heavily doctored that we turn a blind eye to the fact that they are not exactly real. So my hope is that by Photoshopping images themselves, students might pay a little more attention to the visuals coming at them from media platforms they use.

And that’s not even getting to the language used to pitch the story or idea, learning to look for clues in the craft of the writer, which is another topic entirely.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, Technology

 

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Which is worse? Conspiracy Theories or Fake News?

It’s impossible to miss the conspiracy theories swirling around us whether it’s politics, technology or pop culture. You may have heard of Google News, delivering fake news snippets via a Google Home speaker.

Perfectly timed, because this month my LMD column you’ll find my wacky take on conspiracy theories, including the many tall tales concerning the Illuminati.

Titled:“Stop spreading fake news. Worry about Beyonce instead!”

(I discussed the topic here on this blog in January, while working on the article stating that news fakery is nothing new and dates back to the civil war.)

 

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Hype, LMD, Media, Social Media

 

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Long before fake news, we had half-truths

You’ve heard the adage, “a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” 

In the absence of fact-checking, we cultivated scepticism. It’s easy to blame our epidemic of fake news on the Russian trolls, and geo-politics. But truth is, half-truths and conspiracy theories circulated before social media arrived on the scene. Some even embedded themselves into the pages of history. Here are two:

Have you heard the one about Black Confederates? It’s a ‘story’ of how 80,000 black soldiers supposedly fought for the Confederacy. This is, as the Civil War website calls it, shoddy facts that’s were “repeated, amplified, and twisted” to become credible to some, just because the story fit their agenda.

Or the story of American planes dropping napalm in South Vietnam? It surrounds the Pulitzer prize-winning photograph, taken by Associated Press photographer, Nick Ut on June 8, 1972. That too, we are informed by Joseph Campbell, was a myth. The photo was accurate. The story was not.

Which brings me to how do we teach fact checking to young people ?

Until a few years ago some made Wikipedia the culprit. But even before that there were stories circulated via email, that travelled through an unverified friend-of-a-friendsnetwork. They contained dubious facts no one bothered to fact check. Fast forward to now, and we like to blame the trolls.

How easy it is to blame someone else when the onus ought to be on us.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2017 in Education, Journalism, Media

 

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All the *fake* news that fit to share

At least ‘The Onion’ doesn’t pretend to be real news. Just well-written ‘stories’ that parody news. But it gets harder to spot the truly fake from the plausible, somewhat fake. For instance could you spot which one of these is an Onion story, and which is made up?

  • The Secretary Of Treasury Announces Plan To Remove Gross Penny From Circulation.
  • An Ipsos Public Affairs study (for Buzzfeed) showed that fake headlines fool American adults 75% of the time.
  • Pope Francis asked Catholics to not vote for Clinton.

OK, so the story about the penny was a classic Onion piece. The Ipsos Study was real. The Pew study was just made up for your entertainment, though the story about the Pope did get circulated on social media, thought it had been debunked.

If you like to test how news savvy you are (or not) take this sample of  questions, by Marketwatch. 

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2016 in Media, New Media, Social Media

 

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