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Fake News & Fake Facts: Media Literacy Awareness

Learn how language can be used to in a way that it affects the way people perceive reality. Unlike real news, whose purpose is to simply inform, the main purpose of disinformation is to confuse and manipulate people.

Algorithms Defined

What Are Algorithms?


Algorithms are step-by-step instructions that computers follow to complete tasks, solve problems, and make automated decisions.

  • Everyone who has accessed the internet has experienced the personalizing actions of algorithms, whether they realize it or not. 
  • Algorithms use data to make predictions about people, including their preferences, attributes, and behaviors.

The Influence of Algorithms

icon influence - balance scales


Algorithms can be useful and help to improve our lives. We need them to be able to access a wide range of information on the Internet. For example, to quickly and easily be able to pull up a map on our phones and instantly determine the fastest way to reach our destination. 


What happens when algorithms are used  to predict who should be hired for a job or who should get a loan, or to decide the type of information we see in our social media newsfeeds, or to calculate credit scores, or even to predict criminal behavior and determine prison sentences?

Algorithmic Bias

icon imbalanced, bias

“Although the impulse is to believe in the objectivity of the machine, we need to remember that algorithms were built by people.” 

Algorithmic Bias occurs when algorithms reflect the implicit values of the humans involved in their creation or use. They systematically “replicate or  amplify human biases. Search engines can create search results that reflect racist, sexist, or other social biases. For example:

  • an algorithm used by judges to predict whether defendants should be imprisoned or released on bail, was found to be biased against African-Americans.
  • Amazon had to discontinue using a recruiting algorithm after discovering gender bias.
  • Princeton University researchers analyzed algorithms and found that they picked up on existing racial and gender biases:
    • European names were perceived as more pleasant than those of African-American names
    • The words “woman” and “girl” were more likely to be associated with the arts instead of science and math.
  • case studies link YouTube’s recommender algorithm with acts of violence ostensibly inspired or triggered by videos with conspiratorial content

Examples: The Influence of Algorithms

Article:  Wisconsin Public Radio

tiktok algorithm

Snopes Tips for Combatting Misinformation Online

Learn About Snopes' Fact-Checking Process

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 Snopes newsroom documented some ways it scours the internet daily and determines whether viral rumors are factual or misleading.

Learn how to perform reverse image searches, analyze social media posts about purported scientific research, spot digitally manipulated photos — and more — just like professional fact-checkers. 

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