In November 2016, The Stanford History Education Group published the results of their one and a half year study to determine the civic online reasoning skills (ability to reason about the information on the Internet) of 7,804 students across 12 states. Here is what they found:
Our “digital natives” may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped….
(See the report here).
One national conversation that has taken place since our presidential election has largely been focused around what is or isn’t news, what sources we can trust, and how to tell the difference. The Students in Stanford’s study are not the only ones who have trouble distinguishing between sources. Adults have trouble too, and our time spent on facebook seems to contribute largely to the dissemination of fake news.
Dean Miller writes in his article, Why we Need News Literacy Now:
When in doubt, look at the nonpartisan fact checking sites listed below to see what they have to say about a news story in question.
“A project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, this nonpartisan and nonprofit site monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. The site’s goal is to “apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.”
“Opensecrets.org is the most comprehensive resource for federal campaign contributions, lobbying data and analysis available anywhere. And for other organizations and news media, the Center’s exclusive data powers their online features tracking money in politics – counting cash to make change. The OpenSecrets Blog features newsbreaking original reporting about money-in-politics, including the sort of investigative work that won the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2013 award for Public Service in Online Journalism.”
“PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, an independent newspaper in Florida, as is PunditFact, a site devoted to fact-checking pundits. The PolitiFact state sites are run by news organizations that have partnered with the Times. The state sites and PunditFact follow the same principles as the national site. PolitiFact staffers research statements and rate their accuracy on the Truth-O-Meter, from True to False. The most ridiculous falsehoods get the lowest rating, Pants on Fire.
“ProCon.org, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit nonpartisan public charity, provides professionally-researched pro, con, and related information on more than 50 controversial issues from gun control and death penalty to illegal immigration and alternative energy. Using the fair, FREE, and unbiased resources at ProCon.org, millions of people each year learn new facts, think critically about both sides of important issues, and strengthen their minds and opinions.”
Snopes.com is an independent entity owned by its operators, Barbara and David Mikkelson. Their only funding is from advertising. This website attempts to debunk and validate urban legends, Internet rumors and other stories of uncertain origin.