Did Google put fake news at the top of its search page? Did the U.S. House Science Committee tweet that climate change is bogus? Did teenagers make thousands of dollars with a fake news story about Justin Trudeau and marijuana?
“Fake news is on the rise,” says Erin Steuter, a sociology professor and media expert at Mount Allison University, which is hosting a talk on fake news on Friday, Feb. 3. “You see the story everywhere and it starts to feel true. You’re surrounded by it.”
Fighting Fake News: Tips for Aspiring Truth Detectives is a 90-minute session led by Professor Steuter and colleague Jeff Lilburn, a librarian specializing in media literacy. The event, which will be held from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 3 in the Mount Allison Library theatre, is free and open to the public. It will cover current examples of fake news, why fake news is on the rise, and how it has political consequences. The session will also give participants tools they can use to identify and debunk fake news.
“A big part of what we’re doing is highlighting the importance of information sources and how to critically evaluate them. Libraries are where you go for that,” says Jeff Lilburn.
“People are trying to trick us,” says Steuter. “And I don’t think people want to live in a world where many are ignoring facts.”
Even media-savvy sociology professors aren’t exempt from the fake-news trap. Steuter says she received a forwarded e-mail message containing a shocking comparison of two Wall Street Journal covers from the same day. The covers had identical photos and dates, but radically different headlines. The explanation supplied with the photos said one edition was for an East Coast audience, and the other for Texas.
“It looked like the newspaper was pandering to different audiences based on what each one would want to hear,” said Steuter. “I was going to forward it. But then I decided something smelled a bit fishy.”
Snopes—a web source that debunks a variety of false online claims—saved her the embarrassment of passing along a fake story. Steuter and Lilburn will point to many other useful tools and tips to identify and deconstruct fake news.
“We’re news junkies,” says Steuter. “We’ll help you get some skills so you won’t be fooled.”
What: Fighting Fake News: Tips for Aspiring Truth Detectives
When: Friday, Feb. 3 from 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Where: R.P. Bell Library, Mount Allison University. Library Theatre, Room 316
Why: To help people understand, identify and debunk fake news