A Word from a Librarian Regarding: Fake News
The stories have been flying: 2016 has been dominated by fake news stories. Well, fake, misleading, sarcastic, overly biased, click-baity, etc. news stories. Indeed, the biggest story has been the list of news sites that fit criteria for being less than fully trustworthy. Sadly, that list is currently being rebuilt in a more permanent form – so I can share the site that once was the list, and will one day point to the list.
That site does still have a good list of criteria to use when evaluating a website. However, with the stories about fake news flying around, there was a librarian tool that came to mind. That I’ve seen other librarians sharing lately as well.
The C.R.A.A.P. Test.
Memorable, right? Here, let me go through the acronym in relation to fake news:
While there’s a thought that news online only has a really short life span before we’re on to the next story, there’s also the thought that nothing on the Internet really goes away. There were definitely some stories flying about the election where, reading into them, the evidence being referenced was from a while back. Early days of the campaign, years ago, whatever. And sometimes, these older things were being presented as current news.
You also see this a lot with new names being dropped (like the Cabinet appointees): some element about them is found and brought forward, and these points tend to come from anytime during their careers. It’s worth evaluating how relevant older points are – or whether the individuals have shown repeated evidence to back it up.
I mean okay, sometimes the evidence and point of a click-bait sort of story don’t match, so you can ask about relevance. In many ways, this is a point more geared towards a research project. However, there’s an element to relevance that I think is absolutely part of the share-worthy news of today: does the story feel like it aligns too closely with your opinions? Does it feel, in other words, like it was geared towards you as an audience? Is it too relevant? If so, it’s one to verify by a few sources instead of accepting from the one.
The word to consider here is “author.” However, in these days of Internet news, with so many people putting out, sharing, remixing the news and stories, it’s harder to know the authors. Which means, the site posting the story has to be considered. I’ve seen some with “conservative” or “liberal” in the title of the website. Ummm… I think biased. I mean, I guess it’s better to wear your bias on your sleeve than to have one and hide it, but still, not something I would trust. Even more, I see stories from sites I’ve just plain never heard of – start from there when it comes to questioning a source.
One of the best pieces for accuracy, in the world of online news, might just have to do with linking out to evidence and sources of information. However, it’s easy to do that – I do it all the time, after all, and I’m usually linking to myself (or another author here on the site). For linking out to evidence to matter, you need to click through and check things out. Holly’s been doing a lot of that lately – and has been tearing stories apart when she does. At the very least, I recommend hovering your mouse over the article to see where the link goes…
Ah, and this one’s the rub. This one is the why on why are we seeing so much fake news, so much click bait. The problem is, the number one goal for most of these is quite simply to be clicked into, to be seen. They do this first with the headline, something catchy and attention-grabbing. Evoking an emotion response a lot of the time. Then, with their bias or contents, they hope that you will share the story – raging against it, or agreeing whole-heartedly with it. Then your friends, with the added weight of your endorsement, click into the story as well.
It’s business. They get ad revenue from you clicking, from you viewing. The more the better.
Traditional news, when it comes to the business side, is still trying to figure out what their business model looks like in the Internet age. That means a lot of legitimate news sources are tied up behind pay-walls or have limited views per month for free. They want you to subscribe, but that also makes it hard to share them with people who aren’t subscribed. So of all the news sources out there, of course it’s the ones freely available that have gone flying across the Internet.
They have a different purpose. Think about this when you click, think about this when you share.