Library offers tips on spotting fake news

Pair of Red Deer Public Library programs aimed at helping improve online literacy

U.S. President Donald Trump sees it everywhere and the Collins Dictionary called it the word of 2017.

It’s fake news.

It seems like everybody is talking about it, and so is Red Deer Public Library through its Fake News — Critically Reading Internet Media sessions. The library is hosting several primers on how to identify fake news and become a more discriminating online reader.

Linnea Lawton, the library’s manager of digital literacy, said the sessions are all about “information literacy” and how to look at sources to determine their validity.

“That falls under my purview because I am very passionate about digital information literacy,” said Lawton, following her first session at the downtown library on Thursday afternoon.

Consider the source is Lawton’s first piece of advice. She points out a story that got a lot of traction last year came from nbcnews.com.co, a fake news site that has no connection to the real NBC.

An amazing photo of a black lion that made the online rounds turned out to be a cleverly photoshopped white lion.

“If it’s melodramatic, over-blown, be skeptical,” said Lawton.

Huge news scoops or jaw-dropping quotes from well-known figures coming from a single source should also have alarm bells ringing.

“If it’s something big, everyone will be covering it,” she said.

Suspicious or absent news story bylines, obscure associations, groups or supposed government websites and photos and head shots used for multiple unrelated stories all carry a whiff of fakery.

For those interested in checking out the facts behind something, library staff live for helping out and pointing people in the right direction, she said.

Lawton also challenges people to take a look at their own biases, such as confirmation bias, a penchant for believing information that supports a pre-held opinion.

“Everyone does have a bias and that’s OK. I think biases are important tools to for helping you understand information.

“However, being able to see beyond your bias, to see that you have a bias, will help you understand whether that bias is impacting the way you understand things.”

Lawton provides information on some of the best-known fact-checking sites online to help people nail down facts and figures.

She also throws in a few satirical websites as a reminder that sometimes what you read was meant to be a joke (and it’s not always obvious).

The next fake news session takes place at G.H. Dawe Library branch at 56 Holt Street on Jan. 19 from 4-5 p.m. Another one takes place on Feb. 8 from 1-2 p.m.

For information on library programs go to www.rdpl.org



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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