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Fake News

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Facebook and the spread of fake news

Over 44% of US Americans use Facebook as a source for their news, Pew Research said in 2016. However, Facebook has been under fire for their trending news feed and its role in propagating fake news.  The reach of Facebook and other social media platforms in allowing fake news to be spread has become so great that it has prompted these statements from one former and one current world leader:

"If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, and particularly in an age of social media when so many people are getting their information in sound bites and off their phones, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems."
- Barrack Obama, 44th President of the United States

"We must all take responsibility for using facts correctly, and for verifying any information that we spread."
- Stefan Lofven, Prime Minister of Sweden

Facebook's trending news stories are presented via an algorithm pulling those stories to the top of our feeds. They are personalized, based on the information Facebook has mined about you. Facebook is showing you stories it thinks you want to see, and not showing you everything.

There is some human interaction involved in picking those top stories, but often it is just an algorithm mathematically deciding what to present to you. If you track what trends, you'll notice that the algorithm pulls from certain specific websites that you often visit. Fake news accordingly can be pushed to the top of your trending stories.

Getting news from Facebook is fine, but if you get your news this way, evaluate and interrogate the information that appears on your feeds. The Critical thinking about information tab on the left hand side bar has information on how to be a critical reader.

As a side note, in the name of promoting critical thinking about news, and working towards a fact-based reporting, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia has begun the following initiative (link provided for educational purposes only -- not an endorsement).

Content partly adapted from Hailley Fargo, Penn State University Libraries

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