I’ve addressed the various ways in which libraries can embrace social media and use the tools to their advantage. Little did I know that someone perhaps much like me but with a higher salary elsewhere in the world was telling Facebook staff that they should embrace libraries and use them to their advantage. Therefor, let’s take a break from talking about how you can use various social media tools and give a shout out to the ways in which they are borrowing from our field to make their platforms that much more epic. At least Facebook.
On the heels of the big “fake news” fiasco that surfaced in the political arena, Facebook has developed a temporary feature that mimics an information specialist’s role by allowing users to analyze sources and weed out the fake news in their feed. This handy add-on may have been added as many users began shunning social media due to the inundation of untrustworthy news stories during and after the election, and as governments look to the site as a problematic source of misinformation that sways elections based on false truths.
So, what are some of the ways, you might be wondering, that Facebook says you can determine if your Uncle Jim is spreading rubbish news versus legitimate information? Let’s take a look.
- Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
- Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
- Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their “About” section to learn more.
- Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
- Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
- Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
- Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
- Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true.
- Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
- Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.
Take from Facebook’s Help Center https://www.facebook.com/help/188118808357379?_fb_noscript=1
Those these are simplified versions of criteria that librarians might suggest when analyzing the the credibility of sources, it is still admirable that Facebook is taking some action to prevent the spread of fake news on their site. While freedom of speech is definitely of value on social media, rampant deception is also a problem that no company wants their brand to be known for.
Unfortunately, these guidelines are tricky to find and not something that most users are likely to read all the way through. But not to worry, the company is still working to keep their users informed about ways to spot trustworthy sources. Theringer.com reports that The News Literacy Project is working on creating more engaging content and videos to educate users. This content should be more eye catching and will hopefully grab the attention of more users. It will be released in a few weeks.