Fake information is everywhere online. After all, everyone has a Facebook friend who elicits eye rolls when he or she shares a sensational news article that is fake or from a heavily-biased site promoting an agenda. But can today’s students tell the difference between what is legitimate and what is false? The answer might surprise you.

As today’s students grow up in a digital world, they must learn information literacy skills if they are to effectively evaluate information sources and become truly informed. Skills such as problem solving and creativity are typically classified as soft skills, because they are necessary but hard to measure. In today’s online world, however, information literacy is moving from a soft skill to one of the most critical.

Why is it critical? Consider this: during the 2016 presidential election, fake news stories were more popular than legitimate media reports.

A BuzzFeed analysis found that in the last three months of the U.S. presidential campaign, the most-viewed fake election news stories on Facebook elicited more reader engagement than legitimate top stories from sources such as the Washington Post, the New York Times, and NBC News. In all, top-performing fake news stories received roughly 1.3 million more shares, reactions and comments than did the legitimate top-performing news stories.

Facebook was heavily criticized for what many deemed an inadequate attempt to remove fake news stories and false information from the site. Later, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that while the Facebook team does not want to discourage members from using the platform to share opinions, it is taking steps to prevent and penalize the spread of misinformation.

“Anyone on Facebook can report any link as false, and we use signals from those reports along with a number of others–like people sharing links to myth-busting sites such as Snopes–to understand which stories we can confidently classify as misinformation,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Similar to clickbait, spam and scams, we penalize this content in News Feed so it’s much less likely to spread.”

(Next page: 7 information literacy resources; a Stanford U. study)


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