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News Literacy: Social Media

How to Evaluate News You See on Social Media

What do you see?
  • Is it a meme or gif? These can be very entertaining, but they aren’t typically based on fact.
  • Google the information on the meme to see what websites come out to support or refute it.
  • Is it from a satire site such as The Onion or the Borowitz Report? Satire is a legitimate form of political commentary, but it isn’t meant to express the literal facts.
  • Is it from a nonpartisan site such as politifact.com or snopes.com? You can usually trust these.
  • Is it from a major newspaper such as the LA Times, the New York Times, or the Washington Post? These are usually fact-based. Editorials are opinion, but usually educated opinion.
  • Is more than one news source reporting on the event or issue, or just one?
  • Can you find peer-reviewed journal articles or library books about the general topic? Even though these may not contain information on specific very recent news items, you can get good factual background from them.

What should you look for?

  • Verifiable facts and statistics, not rumors or wild claims. Just because it “sounds right” or seems to confirm something you already believe doesn’t mean it is actually true.
  • Citing sources.  Just as you cite sources in your research papers, Internet news should do the same. If they don’t clearly state where they got their information, there is no evidence for it being correct.
  • Who paid for or sponsored the content? If you can find out who supports it, you can see what viewpoint it is coming from.
  • Does the website URL end in “lo” or “com.co”? These are usually not legitimate news sources.
  • The website should have an “About Us” or similar tab to let you learn more about them.
  • Who is the author? Is he or she a subject expert or a professional journalist? If not, or if you can’t find out who the author is, be careful about trusting the material.

What is a Filter Bubble?

According to Wikipedia, "A filter bubble is a result of a personalized search in which a website algorithm electively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user (such as location, past click behavior and search history) and, as a result, users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles." The danger of a filter bubble is that it insulates us from other viewpoints that we might learn from, creating a polarizing effect.

Your Filter Bubble

How to Burst Your Filter Bubble

Get Rid of Your Search History

Your web history provides Google with a lot of information about you and is used to help determine what results Google gives you. To delete your web history:

  1. Go to Google's homepage
  2. Click on your username in the top right corner
  3. Click on "Account Settings"
  4. Click on "edit" next to the "My Products" header
  5. Click "Remove Web History Permanently"

Turn Off Targeted Ads

You can turn off targeted advertising at the browser level. Click on the links below to turn off targeted ads for a particular browser.

You can also tell many ad networks at once that you do not want targeted ads, on the Digital Advertising Alliance Consumer Choice page.

Open Up Your Feed

Follow some news sources on social media that you might not normally follow or do not usually agree with.  This will expose you to different perspectives on issues that you may not ordinarily hear or see.  You might also try the Wall Street Journal's Blue Feed, Red Feed, a side-by-side look at real conversations on political topics from different perspectives.

Lean Into Your Discomfort

While reading things you don't agree with may make you uncomfortable, it will help you understand what is happening in the world in a more holistic way and--hopefully--help you understand the perspectives of others.

Stop the Spread of Fake News

Don't post or forward articles that you haven't personally fact checked. Be a good digital citizen!

Stand Up for the Truth

If your friends or family are posting less-than-credible news, challenge them to fact check their own postings or let them know that Snopes or Politifact has already debunked their information.

Push each other to think.

Most issues in the news are much more nuanced than 140 characters allows room for.  Push each other to think, and give each other space to think through each other's perspectives.

 

Sites that Create a Filter Bubble

Pay attention; these are some of the sites that tailor their results to your past clicking history:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Amazon
  • Washington Post
  • New York Times
  • Yahoo News