It’s awfully rainy and cold here today, so I stayed in even though I wanted to go for a Thanksgiving morning walk and to take some photos for the blog. I stayed in and played with the kids until it was time to cook.
Cooking is another time I can clear my mind and think about things (or not think at all if I want!). Maybe this can be a hiking and cooking blog when the weather is iffy.
I keep thinking about NPR’s All Things Considered program I heard yesterday which was incredibly compelling. NPR tracked down the man who created a lot of the fake news circulating around the internet and especially Facebook. He explained that he started writing the fake news stories in 2013 to expose the extremism of the alt-right (a nice word for white nationalists, neo nazis, etc). Then fake news took off in the run up to the election. He talks about his strategy for spreading it, the people who consume it the most (Trump supporters), and that he doesn’t think fake news made a difference in the 2016 election. This guy’s company is called Disinfomedia, and one of his writers wrote a fake story about an FBI agent who leaked Clinton emails being found dead. It was blatantly false. It got 1.6 million views in 10 days. Cue jaw drop. This guy stated that people wanted to hear this story, it already fits into right wing conspiracy theories, so they eat it up. He insisted that he is doing this to point out how easily fake news spreads, but he is making a huge amount of money from it. He’s also a registered Democrat. He said they’ve tried writing fake news for liberals, but they never take the bait. He’s an equal opportunitist apparently at exploiting people’s ignorance for profit, or at least he tries to be. He mentions at the end that he’s considering getting out of the fake news business. This is one of the best news stories I’ve heard in a long time and I want to be sure to share it with you if you missed it.
Then also today was this story from NPR about how ineffective students from middle school through college were at determining fake versus real news stories.
Reading and listening to these two stories back to back was overwhelming. Considering the sheer amount of misinformation on the internet and knowing that kids and young adults (ok let’s face it, lots of adults too) are apparently defenseless against it, it is not a good outlook for the future unless we are ok with ignorance.
We must do better.
We are not doing enough to educate people about how to be discriminating about the “information” they consume. When I think back to when I remember being educated about this topic, it was mostly in college. I think in upper level high school classes we got basic info on this too. Granted, that was awhile ago… ahem… the internet has taken off exponentially since then and is a different world than when I was a kid.
When are kids learning this material? Are high schools teaching it? If you know, please share in the comments! I have teacher friends and friends who are parents of older kids that will know. If kids are already consuming information online in elementary school, don’t we think that’s the time to start educating them about this? Parents will ultimately be responsible for this (assuming they know the information themselves), especially if schools don’t have the resources to do it.
And so *drumroll* …. friends, kids, people who believe everything they see on the internet…behold. Here’s a comprehensive article from The New York Times to help us re-gain our footing in facts (and sanity… please). The TED video at the beginning is about 4 minutes long and a good basic introduction. I think kids can learn from it too.
Feel free to share it far and wide. The world needs it!
Another helpful link: The News Literacy Project.
And another helpful link (very straight forward): Fact vs Fiction vs Opinion: How to tell the difference.
A final article: Fake news threatens Germany’s election too, says Merckel. Germany…. just don’t.
Stay tuned for part two in which I look for fake liberal news and discuss Facebook’s role in fake news.