A recent study (PDF) by researchers at Stanford University in the U.S. found that more than 7,800 students in 12 states couldn’t distinguish real from fake news. With non-factual news and what White House adviser Kellyanne Conway has called “alternative facts” circulating on social media, librarians at the University of Toronto have developed an online guide to help students spot the fake stuff.
The guide, developed by Heather Buchansky and Eveline Houtman, provides credible news sources, a list of myth-debunking websites (such as FactCheck.org and PolitiFact), a reading list on the fake news phenomenon and a checklist for analyzing a story’s credibility.
The guide is geared towards the U of T community but the librarians expect it could find a larger audience. “I think people across the spectrum can get sucked in … [because] one of the things that happens with fake news is confirmation bias,” explains Ms. Houtman. “You’re more likely to believe something if it reinforces your prior beliefs.”
Though the recent spike of fake news has largely been tied to the 2016 U.S. presidential election and its aftermath, Ms. Houtman cautions that Canadians are not immune. “We do have to be watchful and we have to come up with ways to talk about this with students that would really go beyond the obvious.”