Fight Fake News with the CivicJess Challenge

CivicJess offers information and activities on issues facing the Jessamine County community and beyond.

Beginning September 1st, inform yourself and earn badges along the way. Plus, participating allows you to earn entries in our monthly drawings for a $50 Amazon gift card. Register and get started on Beanstack.

The Fake News Problem Continues

The first badge you can earn on the CivicJess Challenge is about fake news, an issue we’ve covered on this blog before.

Misinformation is even more of a problem today, as a recent article on NPR points out. Because of the pandemic, “More people are more online right now than at any point in human history, and experts say the Internet has gotten only more flooded since 2016 with bad information.”

And it’s not just people spreading fake news stories. That same NPR article notes that a recent Carnegie Mellon study “found that nearly half of the Twitter accounts spreading messages about the coronavirus pandemic are likely bots—automated accounts designed to make it appear that more humans are acting a certain way than truly are.”

What Is Fake News?

As the article “The Almost Complete History of Fake News” points out, fake news has become a catch-all term for “misinformation, spin, conspiracy theories, mistakes, and reporting that people just don’t like….”

Originally, however, the term fake news referred to made-up news stories—stories that can’t be verified and are not based in fact. These false stories are often shared online, whether on social media, websites promoting propaganda, or satirical websites.

CivicJess will focus on helping you spot these false stories.

How to Spot Fake News

The below infographic from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions offers the following tips to empower you as you read:

  • Consider the source. Click away from the story to investigate the site, its mission, and its contact info.
  • Read beyond. Headlines can be outrageous in an effort to get clicks. What’s the whole story?
  • Check the author. Do a quick search on the author. Are they credible? Are they real?
  • Supporting sources? Click on those links. Determine if the info given actually supports the story.
  • Check the date. Resposting old news stories doesn’t mean they’re relevant to current events.
  • Is it a joke? If it is too outlandish, it might be satire. Research the site and author to be sure.
  • Check your biases. Consider if your own beliefs could affect your judgment.
  • Ask the experts. Ask a librarian, or consult a fact-checking site.

How to Spot Fake News infographic

What Can I Do?

For starters, you can take a closer look at that social media post or news story before you share it. If the post or article makes you really mad, take a breath to consider who wrote it and where it came from. Chances are it was designed to make you angry.

And of course, we’d also love to see you participate in the CivicJess Challenge, where you can learn more about fighting misinformation and finding reliable news.