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Fake News & Bad Info: Media Literacy Resources

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 fake news is to confuse and manipulate people.


“We tend to think that we have rational relationships to information, but we don’t. We have emotional relationships to information, which is why the most effective disinformation draws on our underlying fears and worldviews….We’re less likely to be critical of information that reinforces our worldview or taps into our deep-seated emotional responses.” - Claire Wardle

How do we know which sources of information to trust?

These questions are becoming increasingly difficult to answer, and even more so as “disinformation that is designed to provoke an emotional reaction can flourish in these spaces” (Wardle).

A 2020 study from Project Information Literacy confirms that the way information is delivered today—with opinion and propaganda mingled with traditional news sources, and with algorithms highlighting sources based on engagement rather than quality—has left many college students concerned about the trustworthiness of online content. One student noted that “it’s not that we’re lacking credible information. It’s that we’re drowning in like a sea of all these different points out there” (Head et al. 20). There are 4 key things to do to quickly make a decision about whether or not a source is worthy of your attention - "S.I.F.T.”  your sources - Stop. Investigate the source. Find better coverage. Trace quotes, claims, and media to their original source..

Example of "better coverage." -  Wisconsin Public Radio

tiktok algorithm

What are algorithms?

Algorithms are step-by-step instructions computers follow to make automated decisions and predictions about people (you!), including their preferences, attributes, and behaviors. Algorithms power nearly everything we see online. They determine  the content  many of us interact with daily, such as Google, YouTube, Instagram, Netflix, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and Spotify.

Feel free to ignore the algorithms, YOU choose what YOU want to see!

Source: Open Educational Resource (OER)

Introduction to College Research by Walter D. Butler, Aloha Sargent, and Kelsey Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.  

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Types of Bad Information














Propaganda - the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor, deliberately for the purpose of helping or damaging an opposing causeFake News false "news" stories (and social media posts) whose purpose is to confuse or manipulate the facts or language surrounding news events. This is done in primarily two ways: 1) to present fake news as real news --  to deliberately mislead the reader/audience about people or topics. Many fake news sources may look “official.” They create logos that are a close copy of the original;  2) to present real news as fake news -- people who do not like or agree with proven facts may dismiss them by calling them fake news in order to instill doubt in the facts.

liar's nose fake news con 

"...there is no greater oppression than the hijacking of the mind, and critical information at a critical time is necessary to empower the public to be able to protect itself and to act while it's still possible." - Bandy X. Lee, MD. warning on the dangers of creeping authoritarianism

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