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Prepare: Prior to beginning work on this discussion forum, in preparation for discussing the importance of critical thinking skills, 
Read the articles

Common Misconceptions of Critical Thinking
Combating Fake News in the Digital Age
6 Critical Thinking Skills You Need to Master Now
Teaching and Learning in a Post-Truth world: It’s Time for Schools to Upgrade and Reinvest in Media Literacy Lessons
Critical Thinking and the Challenges of Internet

Watch the videos

Fake News: Part 1
Critical Thinking

Review the resources

Critical Thinking Skills
Valuable Intellectual Traits
Critical Thinking Web

Reflect: Reflect on the characteristics of a critical thinker. Critical thinking gets you involved in a dialogue with the ideas you read from others in this class. To be a critical thinker, you need to be able to summarize, analyze, hypothesize, and evaluate new information that you encounter.
Write: For this discussion, you will address the following prompts. Keep in mind that the article or video you’ve chosen should not be about critical thinking, but should be about someone making a statement, claim, or argument related to your Final Paper topic. One source should demonstrate good critical thinking skills and the other source should demonstrate the lack or absence of critical thinking skills. Personal examples should not be used.

Explain at least five elements of critical thinking that you found in the reading material.
Search the Internet, media, or the Ashford University Library, and find an example in which good critical thinking skills are being demonstrated by the author or speaker. Summarize the content and explain why you think it demonstrates good critical thinking skills.
Search the Internet, media, or the Ashford University Library, and find an example in which the author or speaker lacks good critical thinking skills. Summarize the content and explain why you think it demonstrates the absence of good, critical thinking skills.

Your initial post should be at least 250 words in length, which should include a thorough response to each prompt. You are required to provide in-text citations of applicable required reading materials and/or any other outside sources you use to support your claims. Provide full reference entries of all sources cited at the end of your response. Please use correct APA format when writing in-text citations (see In-Text Citation Helper) and references (see Formatting Your References List).

Teaching
and Learning in a
Post-Truth
World

It’s time for schools to upgrade and
reinvest in media literacy lessons.

Renee Hobbs

I
n the summer of 2016, I found a startling
announcement in my Facebook feed from
WTOE 5 News, saying, “Pope Francis Shocks
World, Endorses Donald Trump for President,
Issues Statement.”

It looked so real that I was tempted to share it
with my friends. But before I did that, I did some

research to confirm the statement, and that’s
how I learned that WTOE 5 was not a real

news outlet. Pope Francis did not endorse
any American presidential candidate.

Hobbs.indd 26 9/26/17 5:59 AM

A S C D / w w w . A S C D . o r g 27

But in those heated days before the 2016 election, nearly one
million people did share that particular story, making it one of
the top so-called “fake news” stories of 2016 (Ritchie, 2016). And
of course, there were hundreds of other examples of false and
misleading information circulating online as the fake news phe-
nomenon spread like wildfire, not just here in the United States,
but in Germany, Italy, and around the world.

Since then, there’s been a lot of talk among educators about the
importance of teaching students to critically analyze news and
information. The public is gaining awareness of our vulnerability
to media manipulation. Researchers have found that most adults
can’t accurately judge the truth or falsity of an online news story
because they assume that content that aligns with their existing
beliefs is automatically true (Goodfellow, 2017).

So-called “fake news” is rising in visibility and influence due
to the attention economy, a concept first developed by Herbert
A. Simon in 1971. Many choices are available to us as both con-
sumers and creators of media, and, sadly, it seems as if people
have adopted a problematic post-truth attitude: If it’s entertaining
or meshes with their own views, who really cares if it’s true? This
makes it easy for creators of “fake news” in a world where digital
content is cheap to produce. These sites use sensationalism (sex,
violence, children, animals, and the mysterious unknown) to
profit from viral sharing, where more clicks equals more revenue.
And when articles include emotionally inflamed or intense words
or images, they spread quickly and reach a larger audience.

Not only are we seeing more emotionally manipulative online
content, but it is also more challenging to find and validate the
source of the information we consume. Because most Americans
get their news from social media, we experience content as
unbundled snippets, without source information or context
clues to assist in interpretation. These are all good reasons to
implement media literacy education in middle and high schools.

New evidence reported in the American Educational Research
Journal by Joseph Kahne and his colleagues shows that teens
and young adults who have had some exposure to media lit-
eracy and civic education in school are better able to analyze

Today, propaganda is everywhere and it takes
new digital forms that blur the lines between
entertainment, information, and persuasion.

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28 E d u c a t i o n a l l E a d E r s h i p / n o v E m b E r 2 0 1 7

news content for accuracy and bias,
even when the story is in line with
their existing political beliefs. Based
on an online experiment with a
nationally representative survey of
young people, this study is the first
of its kind to demonstrate that civic
media literacy education can improve
the degree to which students can
distinguish between evidence-based
and inaccurate online political claims
(Kahne & Bowyer, 2017).

Teachers must take up the cause
and help students analyze and evaluate
the information they receive each day.
In a post-truth world, media literacy
matters. The future of our democracy
depends on it.

Sorting Fact from Fiction
As many commentators have observed,
the use of the term fake news conceals
more than it reveals. Although I’m
happy that many K–12 educators have
increased interest in teaching students
how to critically analyze media, I rec-
ommend that they resist using this
particular term.

Learners are far better served by a
more precise set of definitions and
concepts, including terms like propa-
ganda, disinformation, clickbait, hoaxes
and satire, pseudoscience, sponsored
content, and partisanship. These more
precise terms need to be a fundamental
part of English and social studies
education in all American secondary
schools.

Fortunately, educators around the
world are banding together to develop
resources to help educators at the sec-
ondary level teach media literacy. For
example, the European Association
for Viewers’ Interests has developed
a chart (https://eavi.eu/beyond-fake-
news-10-types-misleading-info/) that
helps people analyze and evaluate
online content simply through the
process of trying to identify the genre

of the message (EAVI, 2017).
Tools like this chart can help stu-

dents learn to critically evaluate media
messages. Students can first review the
10 definitions on the chart, looking
carefully at the legend to understand
the terms. They can then go online
to find relevant examples, checking a
variety of sources, including content
posted to social media platforms. For
instance, when I scroll through my
newsfeed on Facebook, I can find an
example of sponsored content (such as
a video that features Adult Swim’s ani-
mated TV show, “Rick and Morty”).
I notice a clickbait story urging me to
learn more about a foolproof method
for reducing wrinkles. There’s also
propaganda in the form of a dog rescue

video shared with me by an old high
school friend.

After identifying examples like this
on their own social media accounts,
students can work collaboratively
to make educated guesses about the
authors’ motivation for any particular
example. Who created this message?
Were they creating this message to
make money? To inform (or mis-
inform)? As a form of political or
social power? As a joke or a form of
humor? Or because they truly are
passionate about the issue?

Contemporary Propaganda
Of all the types of misleading news
listed in the EAVI chart, propaganda is
perhaps the most difficult for students
to understand. Propaganda, which is
generally defined as strategic com-
munication designed to activate strong
emotions, bypass critical thinking,
and shape attitudes and behaviors,
has long been an important form
of social power. But for too many
American students, the term is only
associated with historical examples
from the middle of the 20th century.
As a result of biases and omissions
in classroom instruction, some high
school and college students wrongly
think propaganda only happened in
Nazi Germany!

Today, propaganda is everywhere,
and it takes new digital forms that blur
the lines between entertainment, infor-
mation, and persuasion. Propaganda
can be found on YouTube videos,
websites, and TV news, and in movies,
music, and video games. And it doesn’t
have to be solely negative; some forms
of propaganda are actually beneficial.
Think of the public service messages
that remind you not to text and drive,
for example. Well-designed propa-
ganda activates strong feelings that
motivate people to take action.

Teachers, librarians, and school

When students
recognize the
constructed
nature of
information,
they begin to
identify the
different points
of view that are
embodied in
the choices that
authors make.

Hobbs.indd 28 9/26/17 5:59 AM

A S C D / w w w . A S C D . o r g 29

leaders are using the pedagogy of media literacy edu-
cation to teach about the different types of disinformation,
including propaganda. For example, Susan Vernon, a high
school English teacher from North Polk High School in
Iowa, used Mind Over Media: Analyzing Contemporary
Propaganda in working with her students. Mind Over
Media (www.mindovermedia.tv) is an online resource
developed at the University of Rhode Island’s Media Edu-
cation Lab, which I direct. The website includes more than
1,000 current examples of contemporary propaganda from
across the United States and around the world, on topics
including politics and current events; food, nutrition,
and health; immigration; environmental science; national
and international affairs; crime, law, and justice; health
and public policy; media and technology regulation;
animal rights; and more. It also offers free lesson plans on
exploring new forms of propaganda like viral media and
sponsored content.

Students in Ms. Vernon’s class first learned the definition
of propaganda and reviewed four common techniques used
in constructing it:

n Evoking strong emotions.
n Simplifying information and ideas.
n Appealing to audience needs.
n Attacking opponents.
The students then selected examples of propaganda

from the Mind Over Matter website and evaluated them
on a scale that runs from “harmful” to “beneficial.” When
evaluating each item, students had to make explicit their
judgments and interpretations through classroom dialogue
and by making comments using the online platform. After
students evaluated a particular example, such as a meme
related to genetically modified foods, the website’s database
showed them how others interpreted that example in
similar (and different) ways, which created an opportunity
for rich classroom discussion.

To become media literate, it is important to gain
awareness of how and why we choose to accept some
information as truthful and other information as false.
Making judgments about the potential benefits and harms
of online propaganda gives people structured opportunities
to practice the art of interpreting and evaluating media. We
get to see interpretations that are sometimes more diverse
than those we find in our local communities.

“Young people are exposed to so much information that
it is a struggle for them to form their own opinions about
major topics that impact their world,” says Steve Keim,
a high school English teacher at Southern Huntingdon
County High School/Middle School in Pennsylvania, who

recently explored the topic of contemporary propaganda
with his students through the Mind Over Media website.
Keim believes that being able to identify propaganda and
filter out quality information is a vital skill for these stu-
dents to learn so they can avoid being manipulated by news
outlets that crop up on their social media pages.

The Thanksgiving Meme
One fascinating artifact on the Mind Over Media website
is a meme featuring a reproduction of a classic painting
depicting the Puritans and American Indians in the first
Thanksgiving celebration. The painting is accompanied by
the phrase: “The irony of refusing aid and assistance to ref-
ugees/migrants while preparing to celebrate a holiday about
receiving aid and assistance as refugees/migrants.” Figure 1
shows the meme, which was shared widely online in 2016.

As the data graph under the photo shows, this meme
has been interpreted very differently by users of the Mind
Over Media website. Thirty-five percent of website users see
it as beneficial, and twenty percent see it as harmful. The
polarized results create a natural starting point for dialogue
and reflection in the classroom: Why do some people think
this meme is beneficial? Why do some see it as harmful?

To answer this question, multi-perspectival thinking is
required. High school students interpret such propaganda
in many different ways. One participant interpreted the
Thanksgiving meme as somewhat harmful, noting, “This
image calls upon old traditions in order to garner sympathy

FIGURE 1. The Thanksgiving Meme

Source: Media Education Lab. Mind Over Media www.mindovermedia.tv. Used
with permission.

Hobbs.indd 29 9/26/17 6:25 AM

for the refugees from the Middle East
war zones. This appeal to tradition is
harmful and ignorant of the changing
times. The Pilgrims were colonists
while the migrants today are refugees
under very different circumstances.
It should be noted that the colonists
caused mass genocide as well, so com-
paring the migrants of today to the
colonists of the past does not exactly
paint a pretty picture.”

Another student saw the Thanks-
giving meme as somewhat beneficial,
writing, “The pilgrims were once
migrants searching for a home, and
now the world is faced by a new chal-
lenge of greater proportion but the
same ethical question. The creator
of this piece wants the viewers to
compare the two situations at hand
and have the [United States] apply
the same hospitality to the refugees
from the Middle East. Yet, that same
hospitality didn’t work out all that well
for the Native Americans that showed
kindness to the pilgrims.”

Although their interpretations differ
widely, both students are considering
the potential intentions and motives
of the author, wondering, “Who is
the author, and what is his or her
purpose?” Two major theoretical ideas
of media literacy education that have
been articulated by the National Asso-
ciation for Media Literacy Education
(2009) are activated in this lesson: (1)
all media messages are constructed
and (2) people interpret messages dif-
ferently based on their background,

life experience, and culture. When
students recognize the constructed
nature of information, they begin to
identify the different points of view
that are embodied in the choices
authors make. They recognize that
meanings are in people, not in texts.
Through classroom dialogue and dis-
cussion, students learn to appreciate

the many different ways that media
messages can be interpreted. This
helps them activate critical thinking
skills and cultivate respect for diverse
interpretations.

Updating the Tradition
The critical examination of propa-
ganda is not new. As far back as 1938,
high school teachers were using
instructional strategies to help build
critical thinking about the propaganda
of the time, which was disseminated
through radio, newspapers, newsreels,
and popular movies. The Institute for
Propaganda Analysis (1937–1942)
developed curriculum resources and
activities that demonstrated how high
school students could take a close look
at the content of a media message and
search for evidence, verification, and
the communicator’s motives (Hobbs &
McGee, 2014).

Now it’s time to update the tra-
dition of propaganda education for the
21st century. With social media sites
and news outlets making it easy to
“select” our exposure and create echo
chambers and filter bubbles, people
today may actually get less access to
diverse points of view than in previous
eras. Often, the true funder of fake
news or propaganda is disguised or
hidden, as in the use of sock puppets
(organizations that deliver messages
without revealing the funding sources
that support them) or bots and trolls
(social media users who amplify their
voices by using computer programs or
multiple accounts).

The quality of civic education and
civic learning in public education must
be continually responsive to the lived
experience of the students we serve. If
schools are to fulfill their social
purpose of preparing students for life
in a democratic society, education
leaders will need to get creative about
how to ensure students are thoughtful

30 E d u c a t i o n a l l E a d E r s h i p / n o v E m b E r 2 0 1 7

Critically

Analyzing Media
Here’s what students should ask
every time they engage with con-
temporary propaganda.

Message: What key information
and ideas are being expressed?

Techniques: What symbols and
rhetorical strategies are used to
attract attention and activate an
emotional response? What makes
them effective?

Means of communication and
format: How does the message
reach people, and what form does
it take?

Representation: How does this
message portray people and
events? What points of view and
values are activated?

Audience receptivity: How may
people think and feel about the
message? How free are they to
accept or reject it?

“Young people are exposed to so much
information that it is a struggle for them to
be able to form their own opinions about
major topics that impact their world.”

Hobbs.indd 30 9/26/17 6:00 AM

A S C D / w w w . A S C D . o r g 31

and intelligent about the information
they consume, and that in the face of
increasing polarization, they can tell
the fake from the facts. EL

References
European Association for Viewers

Interests. (2017). Beyond fake news:
Ten types of misleading information.
https://eavi.eu/beyond-fake-news-
10-types-misleading-info

Goodfellow, J. (2017, February 6). Only
4% of people can distinguish fake
news from the truth, Channel 4 study
finds. The Drum. Retrieved from www.
thedrum.com/news/2017/02/06/only-
4-people-can-distinguish-fake-news-
truth-channel-4-study-finds

Hobbs, R., & McGee, S. (2014). Teaching
about propaganda: An examination of
the historical roots of media literacy.
Journal of Media Literacy Education, 6(2),
56–67.

Kahne, J., & Bowyer, B. (2017). Education
for democracy in a partisan age: Con-
fronting the challenges of motivated
reasoning and misinformation. American
Educational Research Journal, 54(1),
3–34.

National Association for Media Literacy
Education. (2009). Core principles of
media literacy education. Retrieved from
https://namle.net/2009/06/02/the-core-
principles-of-media-literacy-education

Ritchie, H. (2016, December 30). Read all
about it: The biggest fake news stories of
2016. CNBC. Retrieved from www.cnbc.
com/2016/12/30/read-all-about-it-the-
biggest-fake-news-stories-of-2016.html

Simon, H. (1971). Designing organiza-
tions for an information rich world.
In M. Greenberger (Ed.), Computers,
communications, and the public interest
(pp. 37–72). Baltimore, MD: The Johns
Hopkins University Press.

Renee Hobbs ([email protected]) is a pro-
fessor of communication studies and
director of the Media Education Lab
(www.mediaeducationlab.com) at the
Harrington School of Communication and
Media at the University of Rhode Island,
where she co-directs the Graduate
Certificate Program in Digital Literacy.
Her latest book is Create to Learn: Intro-
duction to Digital Literacy (Wiley, 2017).
Follow her on Twitter @reneehobbs.

EL Online
Worried your students might
develop a total distrust of the

media? Read Erik Palmer’s tips
in the online article “The Real
Problem with Fake News” at
www.ascd.org/el1117palmer.

Turn Balanced Literacy Into
Transformative Literacy

Watch ARC Core in Action
Visit our website to watch a sample
lesson americanreading.com/arc-core

ARC Core™ is a K-12
basal alternative designed
to dramatically improve
outcomes for both students
and teachers.

Available in English & Spanish

Hobbs.indd 31 9/26/17 6:00 AM

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American Library Association

Library Technology
R E P O R T S

E x p e r t G u i d e s t o L i b r a r y S y s t e m s a n d S e r v i c e s

alatechsource.org

Combating Fake News in the Digital Age

Joanna M. Burkhardt

http://alatechsource.org

Library Technology
R E P O R T S

Abstract

The issue of fake news has become very prominent
in recent months. Its power to mislead and misinform
has been made evident around the world. While fake
news is not a new phenomenon, the means by which
it is spread has changed in both speed and magni-
tude. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twit-
ter, and Instagram are fertile ground for the spread
of fake news. Algorithms known as bots are increas-
ingly being deployed to manipulate information, to
disrupt social media communication, and to gain user
attention. While technological assistance to identify
fake news are beginning to appear, they are in their
infancy. It will take time for programmers to create
software that can recognize and tag fake news with-
out human intervention. Even if technology can help
to identify fake news in the future, those who seek to
create and provide fake news will also be creating the
means to continue, creating a loop in which those who
want to avoid fake news are always playing catch up.

Individuals have the responsibility to protect
themselves from fake news. It is essential to teach
ourselves and our students and patrons to be critical
consumers of news. This issue of Library Technology
Reports (vol. 53, no. 8), “Combating Fake News in the
Digital Age,” is for librarians who serve all age levels
and who can help by teaching students both that they
need to be aware and how to be aware of fake news.
Library instruction in how to avoid fake news, how
to identify fake news, and how to stop fake news will
be essential.

Library Technology Reports (ISSN 0024-2586) is published eight times a
year (January, March, April, June, July, September, October, and Decem-
ber) by American Library Association, 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611.
It is managed by ALA TechSource, a unit of the publishing department of
ALA. Periodical postage paid at Chicago, Illinois, and at additional mail-
ing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Library Technology
Reports, 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611.

Trademarked names appear in the text of this journal. Rather than identify
or insert a trademark symbol at the appearance of each name, the authors
and the American Library Association state that the names are used for
editorial purposes exclusively, to the ultimate benefit of the owners of the
trademarks. There is absolutely no intention of infringement on the rights
of the trademark owners.

Copyright © 2017
Joanna M. Burkhardt
All Rights Reserved.

alatechsource.org

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Volume 53, Number 8

Combating Fake News in the Digital Age
ISBN: 978-0-8389-5991-6

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About the Author

Joanna M. Burkhardt is Full Professor/Librarian at the
University of Rhode Island Libraries. She is Director of
the branch libraries in Providence and Narragansett and
the URI Libraries Collection Development Manager. She
earned an MA in anthropology from the University of
Wisconsin–Madison in 1981 and an MLS from the Uni-
versity of Rhode Island in 1986. She has taught informa-
tion literacy to both students and teachers since 1999.
She has given workshops, presentations, podcasts, key-
note addresses, and panel discussions about information
literacy. She is coauthor or author of four books about
information literacy. She addressed the topic of fake news
at the ALA Annual Conference in 2017 and designed a
poster and bookmark on that topic for ALA Graphics.

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Chapter 1—History of Fake News 5
Pre–Printing Press Era 5
Post–Printing Press Era 5
Mass Media Era 6
Internet Era 6
Global Reach of Fake News 7
Notes 8

Chapter 2— How Fake News Spreads 10
Word of Mouth 10
Written Word 10
Printed Media 11
Internet 11
Social Media 12
Notes 12

Chapter 3—Can Technology Save Us? 14
Technology of Fake News 14
Big Data 15
Bots 15
Experiments in Fake News Detection 16
Experiments in Bot and Botnet Detection 17
Google and Facebook Anti–Fake News Efforts 18
Notes 19

Chapter 4—Can We Save Ourselves? 22
Learn about Search Engine Ranking 22
Be Careful about Who You “Friend” 22
ID Bots 23
Read before Sharing 23
Fact-Check 24
Evaluate Information 24
Seek Information beyond Your Filter Bubble 26
Be Skeptical 26
Use Verification and Educational Tools 26
Notes 27

Chapter 5—How Can We Help Our Students? 29
Teach Information or Media Literacy 29
Make Students Aware of Psychological Processes 30
Tie Information Literacy to Workplace Applications 30
Teach Students to Evaluate Information 31
Teach Information Literacy Skills and Concepts 31
Teach the Teachers 32
Conclusion 32
Notes 33

Contents

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Combating Fake News in the Digital Age Joanna M. Burkhardt

History of Fake News

“Massive digital misinformation is becoming pervasive
in online social media to the extent that it has been listed
by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as one of the main
threats to our society.”1

F
ake news is nothing new. While fake news was in
the headlines frequently in the 2016 US election
cycle, the origins of fake news date back to before

the printing press. Rumor and false stories have prob-
ably been around as long as humans have lived in
groups where power matters. Until the printing press
was invented, news was usually transferred from per-
son to person via word of mouth. The ability to have
an impact on what people know is an asset that has
been prized for many centuries.

Pre–Printing Press Era

Forms of writing inscribed on materials like stone,
clay, and papyrus appeared several thousand years
ago. The information in these writings was usually
limited to the leaders of the group (emperors, pha-
raohs, Incas, religious and military leaders, and so on).
Controlling information gave some people power over
others and has probably contributed to the creation
of most of the hierarchical cultures we know today.
Knowledge is power. Those controlling knowledge,
information, and the means to disseminate informa-
tion became group leaders, with privileges that others
in the group did not have. In many early state soci-
eties, remnants of the perks of leadership remain—
pyramids, castles, lavish household goods, and more.

Some of the information that has survived, carved
in stone or baked on tablets or drawn in pictograms,
extolled the wonder and power of the leaders. Often

these messages were reminders to the common peo-
ple that the leader controlled their lives. Others were
created to insure that an individual leader would be
remembered for his great prowess, his success in bat-
tle, or his great leadership skills. Without means to
verify the claims, it’s hard to know whether the infor-
mation was true or fake news.

In the sixth century AD, Procopius of Caesarea
(500–ca. 554 AD), the principal historian of Byzan-
tium, used fake news to smear the Emperor Justin-
ian.2 While Procopius supported Justinian during his
lifetime, after the emperor’s death Procopius released
a treatise called Secret History that discredited the
emperor and his wife. As the emperor was dead, there
could be no retaliation, questioning, or investigations.
Since the new emperor did not favor Justinian, it is
possible the author had a motivation to distance him-
self from Justinian’s court, using the stories (often
wild and unverifiable) to do so.

Post–Printing Press Era

The invention of the printing press and the concurrent
spread of literacy made it possible to spread informa-
tion more widely. Those who were literate could eas-
ily use that ability to manipulate information to those
who were not literate. As more people became liter-
ate, it became more difficult to mislead by misrepre-
senting what was written.

As literacy rates increased, it eventually became
economically feasible to print and sell informa-
tion. This made the ability to write convincingly
and authoritatively on a topic a powerful skill. Lead-
ers have always sought to have talented writers in
their employ and to control what information was

Chapter 1

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Combating Fake News in the Digital Age Joanna M. Burkhardt

produced. Printed information became available in
different formats and from different sources. Books,
newspapers, broadsides, and cartoons were often cre-
ated by writers who had a monetary incentive. Some
were paid by a publisher to provide real news. Others,
it seems, were paid to write information for the ben-
efit of their employer.

In 1522, Italian author and satirist Pietro Aret-
ino wrote wicked sonnets, pamphlets, and plays. He
self-published his correspondence with the nobility of
Italy, using their letters to blackmail former friends
and patrons. If those individuals failed to provide the
money he required, their indiscretions became pub-
lic. He took the Roman style of pasquino—anonymous
lampooning—to a new level of satire and parody.
While his writings were satirical (not unlike today’s
Saturday Night Live satire), they planted the seeds of
doubt in the minds of their readers about the people in
power in Italy and helped to shape the complex politi-
cal reality of the time.3

Aretino’s pasquinos were followed by a French
variety of fake news known as the canard. The French
word canard can be used to mean an unfounded rumor
or story. Canards were rife during the seventeenth cen-
tury in France. One canard reported that a monster,
captured in Chile, was being shipped to France. This
report included an engraving of a dragon-like creature.
Du

Prepare: Prior to beginning work on this discussion forum, in preparation for discussing the importance of critical thinking skills, 
Read the articles

Common Misconceptions of Critical Thinking
Combating Fake News in the Digital Age
6 Critical Thinking Skills You Need to Master Now
Teaching and Learning in a Post-Truth world: It’s Time for Schools to Upgrade and Reinvest in Media Literacy Lessons
Critical Thinking and the Challenges of Internet

Watch the videos

Fake News: Part 1
Critical Thinking

Review the resources

Critical Thinking Skills
Valuable Intellectual Traits
Critical Thinking Web

Reflect: Reflect on the characteristics of a critical thinker. Critical thinking gets you involved in a dialogue with the ideas you read from others in this class. To be a critical thinker, you need to be able to summarize, analyze, hypothesize, and evaluate new information that you encounter.
Write: For this discussion, you will address the following prompts. Keep in mind that the article or video you’ve chosen should not be about critical thinking, but should be about someone making a statement, claim, or argument related to your Final Paper topic. One source should demonstrate good critical thinking skills and the other source should demonstrate the lack or absence of critical thinking skills. Personal examples should not be used.

Explain at least five elements of critical thinking that you found in the reading material.
Search the Internet, media, or the Ashford University Library, and find an example in which good critical thinking skills are being demonstrated by the author or speaker. Summarize the content and explain why you think it demonstrates good critical thinking skills.
Search the Internet, media, or the Ashford University Library, and find an example in which the author or speaker lacks good critical thinking skills. Summarize the content and explain why you think it demonstrates the absence of good, critical thinking skills.

Your initial post should be at least 250 words in length, which should include a thorough response to each prompt. You are required to provide in-text citations of applicable required reading materials and/or any other outside sources you use to support your claims. Provide full reference entries of all sources cited at the end of your response. Please use correct APA format when writing in-text citations (see In-Text Citation Helper) and references (see Formatting Your References List).

Teaching
and Learning in a
Post-Truth
World

It’s time for schools to upgrade and
reinvest in media literacy lessons.

Renee Hobbs

I
n the summer of 2016, I found a startling
announcement in my Facebook feed from
WTOE 5 News, saying, “Pope Francis Shocks
World, Endorses Donald Trump for President,
Issues Statement.”

It looked so real that I was tempted to share it
with my friends. But before I did that, I did some

research to confirm the statement, and that’s
how I learned that WTOE 5 was not a real

news outlet. Pope Francis did not endorse
any American presidential candidate.

Hobbs.indd 26 9/26/17 5:59 AM

A S C D / w w w . A S C D . o r g 27

But in those heated days before the 2016 election, nearly one
million people did share that particular story, making it one of
the top so-called “fake news” stories of 2016 (Ritchie, 2016). And
of course, there were hundreds of other examples of false and
misleading information circulating online as the fake news phe-
nomenon spread like wildfire, not just here in the United States,
but in Germany, Italy, and around the world.

Since then, there’s been a lot of talk among educators about the
importance of teaching students to critically analyze news and
information. The public is gaining awareness of our vulnerability
to media manipulation. Researchers have found that most adults
can’t accurately judge the truth or falsity of an online news story
because they assume that content that aligns with their existing
beliefs is automatically true (Goodfellow, 2017).

So-called “fake news” is rising in visibility and influence due
to the attention economy, a concept first developed by Herbert
A. Simon in 1971. Many choices are available to us as both con-
sumers and creators of media, and, sadly, it seems as if people
have adopted a problematic post-truth attitude: If it’s entertaining
or meshes with their own views, who really cares if it’s true? This
makes it easy for creators of “fake news” in a world where digital
content is cheap to produce. These sites use sensationalism (sex,
violence, children, animals, and the mysterious unknown) to
profit from viral sharing, where more clicks equals more revenue.
And when articles include emotionally inflamed or intense words
or images, they spread quickly and reach a larger audience.

Not only are we seeing more emotionally manipulative online
content, but it is also more challenging to find and validate the
source of the information we consume. Because most Americans
get their news from social media, we experience content as
unbundled snippets, without source information or context
clues to assist in interpretation. These are all good reasons to
implement media literacy education in middle and high schools.

New evidence reported in the American Educational Research
Journal by Joseph Kahne and his colleagues shows that teens
and young adults who have had some exposure to media lit-
eracy and civic education in school are better able to analyze

Today, propaganda is everywhere and it takes
new digital forms that blur the lines between
entertainment, information, and persuasion.

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28 E d u c a t i o n a l l E a d E r s h i p / n o v E m b E r 2 0 1 7

news content for accuracy and bias,
even when the story is in line with
their existing political beliefs. Based
on an online experiment with a
nationally representative survey of
young people, this study is the first
of its kind to demonstrate that civic
media literacy education can improve
the degree to which students can
distinguish between evidence-based
and inaccurate online political claims
(Kahne & Bowyer, 2017).

Teachers must take up the cause
and help students analyze and evaluate
the information they receive each day.
In a post-truth world, media literacy
matters. The future of our democracy
depends on it.

Sorting Fact from Fiction
As many commentators have observed,
the use of the term fake news conceals
more than it reveals. Although I’m
happy that many K–12 educators have
increased interest in teaching students
how to critically analyze media, I rec-
ommend that they resist using this
particular term.

Learners are far better served by a
more precise set of definitions and
concepts, including terms like propa-
ganda, disinformation, clickbait, hoaxes
and satire, pseudoscience, sponsored
content, and partisanship. These more
precise terms need to be a fundamental
part of English and social studies
education in all American secondary
schools.

Fortunately, educators around the
world are banding together to develop
resources to help educators at the sec-
ondary level teach media literacy. For
example, the European Association
for Viewers’ Interests has developed
a chart (https://eavi.eu/beyond-fake-
news-10-types-misleading-info/) that
helps people analyze and evaluate
online content simply through the
process of trying to identify the genre

of the message (EAVI, 2017).
Tools like this chart can help stu-

dents learn to critically evaluate media
messages. Students can first review the
10 definitions on the chart, looking
carefully at the legend to understand
the terms. They can then go online
to find relevant examples, checking a
variety of sources, including content
posted to social media platforms. For
instance, when I scroll through my
newsfeed on Facebook, I can find an
example of sponsored content (such as
a video that features Adult Swim’s ani-
mated TV show, “Rick and Morty”).
I notice a clickbait story urging me to
learn more about a foolproof method
for reducing wrinkles. There’s also
propaganda in the form of a dog rescue

video shared with me by an old high
school friend.

After identifying examples like this
on their own social media accounts,
students can work collaboratively
to make educated guesses about the
authors’ motivation for any particular
example. Who created this message?
Were they creating this message to
make money? To inform (or mis-
inform)? As a form of political or
social power? As a joke or a form of
humor? Or because they truly are
passionate about the issue?

Contemporary Propaganda
Of all the types of misleading news
listed in the EAVI chart, propaganda is
perhaps the most difficult for students
to understand. Propaganda, which is
generally defined as strategic com-
munication designed to activate strong
emotions, bypass critical thinking,
and shape attitudes and behaviors,
has long been an important form
of social power. But for too many
American students, the term is only
associated with historical examples
from the middle of the 20th century.
As a result of biases and omissions
in classroom instruction, some high
school and college students wrongly
think propaganda only happened in
Nazi Germany!

Today, propaganda is everywhere,
and it takes new digital forms that blur
the lines between entertainment, infor-
mation, and persuasion. Propaganda
can be found on YouTube videos,
websites, and TV news, and in movies,
music, and video games. And it doesn’t
have to be solely negative; some forms
of propaganda are actually beneficial.
Think of the public service messages
that remind you not to text and drive,
for example. Well-designed propa-
ganda activates strong feelings that
motivate people to take action.

Teachers, librarians, and school

When students
recognize the
constructed
nature of
information,
they begin to
identify the
different points
of view that are
embodied in
the choices that
authors make.

Hobbs.indd 28 9/26/17 5:59 AM

A S C D / w w w . A S C D . o r g 29

leaders are using the pedagogy of media literacy edu-
cation to teach about the different types of disinformation,
including propaganda. For example, Susan Vernon, a high
school English teacher from North Polk High School in
Iowa, used Mind Over Media: Analyzing Contemporary
Propaganda in working with her students. Mind Over
Media (www.mindovermedia.tv) is an online resource
developed at the University of Rhode Island’s Media Edu-
cation Lab, which I direct. The website includes more than
1,000 current examples of contemporary propaganda from
across the United States and around the world, on topics
including politics and current events; food, nutrition,
and health; immigration; environmental science; national
and international affairs; crime, law, and justice; health
and public policy; media and technology regulation;
animal rights; and more. It also offers free lesson plans on
exploring new forms of propaganda like viral media and
sponsored content.

Students in Ms. Vernon’s class first learned the definition
of propaganda and reviewed four common techniques used
in constructing it:

n Evoking strong emotions.
n Simplifying information and ideas.
n Appealing to audience needs.
n Attacking opponents.
The students then selected examples of propaganda

from the Mind Over Matter website and evaluated them
on a scale that runs from “harmful” to “beneficial.” When
evaluating each item, students had to make explicit their
judgments and interpretations through classroom dialogue
and by making comments using the online platform. After
students evaluated a particular example, such as a meme
related to genetically modified foods, the website’s database
showed them how others interpreted that example in
similar (and different) ways, which created an opportunity
for rich classroom discussion.

To become media literate, it is important to gain
awareness of how and why we choose to accept some
information as truthful and other information as false.
Making judgments about the potential benefits and harms
of online propaganda gives people structured opportunities
to practice the art of interpreting and evaluating media. We
get to see interpretations that are sometimes more diverse
than those we find in our local communities.

“Young people are exposed to so much information that
it is a struggle for them to form their own opinions about
major topics that impact their world,” says Steve Keim,
a high school English teacher at Southern Huntingdon
County High School/Middle School in Pennsylvania, who

recently explored the topic of contemporary propaganda
with his students through the Mind Over Media website.
Keim believes that being able to identify propaganda and
filter out quality information is a vital skill for these stu-
dents to learn so they can avoid being manipulated by news
outlets that crop up on their social media pages.

The Thanksgiving Meme
One fascinating artifact on the Mind Over Media website
is a meme featuring a reproduction of a classic painting
depicting the Puritans and American Indians in the first
Thanksgiving celebration. The painting is accompanied by
the phrase: “The irony of refusing aid and assistance to ref-
ugees/migrants while preparing to celebrate a holiday about
receiving aid and assistance as refugees/migrants.” Figure 1
shows the meme, which was shared widely online in 2016.

As the data graph under the photo shows, this meme
has been interpreted very differently by users of the Mind
Over Media website. Thirty-five percent of website users see
it as beneficial, and twenty percent see it as harmful. The
polarized results create a natural starting point for dialogue
and reflection in the classroom: Why do some people think
this meme is beneficial? Why do some see it as harmful?

To answer this question, multi-perspectival thinking is
required. High school students interpret such propaganda
in many different ways. One participant interpreted the
Thanksgiving meme as somewhat harmful, noting, “This
image calls upon old traditions in order to garner sympathy

FIGURE 1. The Thanksgiving Meme

Source: Media Education Lab. Mind Over Media www.mindovermedia.tv. Used
with permission.

Hobbs.indd 29 9/26/17 6:25 AM

for the refugees from the Middle East
war zones. This appeal to tradition is
harmful and ignorant of the changing
times. The Pilgrims were colonists
while the migrants today are refugees
under very different circumstances.
It should be noted that the colonists
caused mass genocide as well, so com-
paring the migrants of today to the
colonists of the past does not exactly
paint a pretty picture.”

Another student saw the Thanks-
giving meme as somewhat beneficial,
writing, “The pilgrims were once
migrants searching for a home, and
now the world is faced by a new chal-
lenge of greater proportion but the
same ethical question. The creator
of this piece wants the viewers to
compare the two situations at hand
and have the [United States] apply
the same hospitality to the refugees
from the Middle East. Yet, that same
hospitality didn’t work out all that well
for the Native Americans that showed
kindness to the pilgrims.”

Although their interpretations differ
widely, both students are considering
the potential intentions and motives
of the author, wondering, “Who is
the author, and what is his or her
purpose?” Two major theoretical ideas
of media literacy education that have
been articulated by the National Asso-
ciation for Media Literacy Education
(2009) are activated in this lesson: (1)
all media messages are constructed
and (2) people interpret messages dif-
ferently based on their background,

life experience, and culture. When
students recognize the constructed
nature of information, they begin to
identify the different points of view
that are embodied in the choices
authors make. They recognize that
meanings are in people, not in texts.
Through classroom dialogue and dis-
cussion, students learn to appreciate

the many different ways that media
messages can be interpreted. This
helps them activate critical thinking
skills and cultivate respect for diverse
interpretations.

Updating the Tradition
The critical examination of propa-
ganda is not new. As far back as 1938,
high school teachers were using
instructional strategies to help build
critical thinking about the propaganda
of the time, which was disseminated
through radio, newspapers, newsreels,
and popular movies. The Institute for
Propaganda Analysis (1937–1942)
developed curriculum resources and
activities that demonstrated how high
school students could take a close look
at the content of a media message and
search for evidence, verification, and
the communicator’s motives (Hobbs &
McGee, 2014).

Now it’s time to update the tra-
dition of propaganda education for the
21st century. With social media sites
and news outlets making it easy to
“select” our exposure and create echo
chambers and filter bubbles, people
today may actually get less access to
diverse points of view than in previous
eras. Often, the true funder of fake
news or propaganda is disguised or
hidden, as in the use of sock puppets
(organizations that deliver messages
without revealing the funding sources
that support them) or bots and trolls
(social media users who amplify their
voices by using computer programs or
multiple accounts).

The quality of civic education and
civic learning in public education must
be continually responsive to the lived
experience of the students we serve. If
schools are to fulfill their social
purpose of preparing students for life
in a democratic society, education
leaders will need to get creative about
how to ensure students are thoughtful

30 E d u c a t i o n a l l E a d E r s h i p / n o v E m b E r 2 0 1 7

Critically

Analyzing Media
Here’s what students should ask
every time they engage with con-
temporary propaganda.

Message: What key information
and ideas are being expressed?

Techniques: What symbols and
rhetorical strategies are used to
attract attention and activate an
emotional response? What makes
them effective?

Means of communication and
format: How does the message
reach people, and what form does
it take?

Representation: How does this
message portray people and
events? What points of view and
values are activated?

Audience receptivity: How may
people think and feel about the
message? How free are they to
accept or reject it?

“Young people are exposed to so much
information that it is a struggle for them to
be able to form their own opinions about
major topics that impact their world.”

Hobbs.indd 30 9/26/17 6:00 AM

A S C D / w w w . A S C D . o r g 31

and intelligent about the information
they consume, and that in the face of
increasing polarization, they can tell
the fake from the facts. EL

References
European Association for Viewers

Interests. (2017). Beyond fake news:
Ten types of misleading information.
https://eavi.eu/beyond-fake-news-
10-types-misleading-info

Goodfellow, J. (2017, February 6). Only
4% of people can distinguish fake
news from the truth, Channel 4 study
finds. The Drum. Retrieved from www.
thedrum.com/news/2017/02/06/only-
4-people-can-distinguish-fake-news-
truth-channel-4-study-finds

Hobbs, R., & McGee, S. (2014). Teaching
about propaganda: An examination of
the historical roots of media literacy.
Journal of Media Literacy Education, 6(2),
56–67.

Kahne, J., & Bowyer, B. (2017). Education
for democracy in a partisan age: Con-
fronting the challenges of motivated
reasoning and misinformation. American
Educational Research Journal, 54(1),
3–34.

National Association for Media Literacy
Education. (2009). Core principles of
media literacy education. Retrieved from
https://namle.net/2009/06/02/the-core-
principles-of-media-literacy-education

Ritchie, H. (2016, December 30). Read all
about it: The biggest fake news stories of
2016. CNBC. Retrieved from www.cnbc.
com/2016/12/30/read-all-about-it-the-
biggest-fake-news-stories-of-2016.html

Simon, H. (1971). Designing organiza-
tions for an information rich world.
In M. Greenberger (Ed.), Computers,
communications, and the public interest
(pp. 37–72). Baltimore, MD: The Johns
Hopkins University Press.

Renee Hobbs ([email protected]) is a pro-
fessor of communication studies and
director of the Media Education Lab
(www.mediaeducationlab.com) at the
Harrington School of Communication and
Media at the University of Rhode Island,
where she co-directs the Graduate
Certificate Program in Digital Literacy.
Her latest book is Create to Learn: Intro-
duction to Digital Literacy (Wiley, 2017).
Follow her on Twitter @reneehobbs.

EL Online
Worried your students might
develop a total distrust of the

media? Read Erik Palmer’s tips
in the online article “The Real
Problem with Fake News” at
www.ascd.org/el1117palmer.

Turn Balanced Literacy Into
Transformative Literacy

Watch ARC Core in Action
Visit our website to watch a sample
lesson americanreading.com/arc-core

ARC Core™ is a K-12
basal alternative designed
to dramatically improve
outcomes for both students
and teachers.

Available in English & Spanish

Hobbs.indd 31 9/26/17 6:00 AM

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American Library Association

Library Technology
R E P O R T S

E x p e r t G u i d e s t o L i b r a r y S y s t e m s a n d S e r v i c e s

alatechsource.org

Combating Fake News in the Digital Age

Joanna M. Burkhardt

http://alatechsource.org

Library Technology
R E P O R T S

Abstract

The issue of fake news has become very prominent
in recent months. Its power to mislead and misinform
has been made evident around the world. While fake
news is not a new phenomenon, the means by which
it is spread has changed in both speed and magni-
tude. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twit-
ter, and Instagram are fertile ground for the spread
of fake news. Algorithms known as bots are increas-
ingly being deployed to manipulate information, to
disrupt social media communication, and to gain user
attention. While technological assistance to identify
fake news are beginning to appear, they are in their
infancy. It will take time for programmers to create
software that can recognize and tag fake news with-
out human intervention. Even if technology can help
to identify fake news in the future, those who seek to
create and provide fake news will also be creating the
means to continue, creating a loop in which those who
want to avoid fake news are always playing catch up.

Individuals have the responsibility to protect
themselves from fake news. It is essential to teach
ourselves and our students and patrons to be critical
consumers of news. This issue of Library Technology
Reports (vol. 53, no. 8), “Combating Fake News in the
Digital Age,” is for librarians who serve all age levels
and who can help by teaching students both that they
need to be aware and how to be aware of fake news.
Library instruction in how to avoid fake news, how
to identify fake news, and how to stop fake news will
be essential.

Library Technology Reports (ISSN 0024-2586) is published eight times a
year (January, March, April, June, July, September, October, and Decem-
ber) by American Library Association, 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611.
It is managed by ALA TechSource, a unit of the publishing department of
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Trademarked names appear in the text of this journal. Rather than identify
or insert a trademark symbol at the appearance of each name, the authors
and the American Library Association state that the names are used for
editorial purposes exclusively, to the ultimate benefit of the owners of the
trademarks. There is absolutely no intention of infringement on the rights
of the trademark owners.

Copyright © 2017
Joanna M. Burkhardt
All Rights Reserved.

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Volume 53, Number 8

Combating Fake News in the Digital Age
ISBN: 978-0-8389-5991-6

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About the Author

Joanna M. Burkhardt is Full Professor/Librarian at the
University of Rhode Island Libraries. She is Director of
the branch libraries in Providence and Narragansett and
the URI Libraries Collection Development Manager. She
earned an MA in anthropology from the University of
Wisconsin–Madison in 1981 and an MLS from the Uni-
versity of Rhode Island in 1986. She has taught informa-
tion literacy to both students and teachers since 1999.
She has given workshops, presentations, podcasts, key-
note addresses, and panel discussions about information
literacy. She is coauthor or author of four books about
information literacy. She addressed the topic of fake news
at the ALA Annual Conference in 2017 and designed a
poster and bookmark on that topic for ALA Graphics.

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Chapter 1—History of Fake News 5
Pre–Printing Press Era 5
Post–Printing Press Era 5
Mass Media Era 6
Internet Era 6
Global Reach of Fake News 7
Notes 8

Chapter 2— How Fake News Spreads 10
Word of Mouth 10
Written Word 10
Printed Media 11
Internet 11
Social Media 12
Notes 12

Chapter 3—Can Technology Save Us? 14
Technology of Fake News 14
Big Data 15
Bots 15
Experiments in Fake News Detection 16
Experiments in Bot and Botnet Detection 17
Google and Facebook Anti–Fake News Efforts 18
Notes 19

Chapter 4—Can We Save Ourselves? 22
Learn about Search Engine Ranking 22
Be Careful about Who You “Friend” 22
ID Bots 23
Read before Sharing 23
Fact-Check 24
Evaluate Information 24
Seek Information beyond Your Filter Bubble 26
Be Skeptical 26
Use Verification and Educational Tools 26
Notes 27

Chapter 5—How Can We Help Our Students? 29
Teach Information or Media Literacy 29
Make Students Aware of Psychological Processes 30
Tie Information Literacy to Workplace Applications 30
Teach Students to Evaluate Information 31
Teach Information Literacy Skills and Concepts 31
Teach the Teachers 32
Conclusion 32
Notes 33

Contents

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Combating Fake News in the Digital Age Joanna M. Burkhardt

History of Fake News

“Massive digital misinformation is becoming pervasive
in online social media to the extent that it has been listed
by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as one of the main
threats to our society.”1

F
ake news is nothing new. While fake news was in
the headlines frequently in the 2016 US election
cycle, the origins of fake news date back to before

the printing press. Rumor and false stories have prob-
ably been around as long as humans have lived in
groups where power matters. Until the printing press
was invented, news was usually transferred from per-
son to person via word of mouth. The ability to have
an impact on what people know is an asset that has
been prized for many centuries.

Pre–Printing Press Era

Forms of writing inscribed on materials like stone,
clay, and papyrus appeared several thousand years
ago. The information in these writings was usually
limited to the leaders of the group (emperors, pha-
raohs, Incas, religious and military leaders, and so on).
Controlling information gave some people power over
others and has probably contributed to the creation
of most of the hierarchical cultures we know today.
Knowledge is power. Those controlling knowledge,
information, and the means to disseminate informa-
tion became group leaders, with privileges that others
in the group did not have. In many early state soci-
eties, remnants of the perks of leadership remain—
pyramids, castles, lavish household goods, and more.

Some of the information that has survived, carved
in stone or baked on tablets or drawn in pictograms,
extolled the wonder and power of the leaders. Often

these messages were reminders to the common peo-
ple that the leader controlled their lives. Others were
created to insure that an individual leader would be
remembered for his great prowess, his success in bat-
tle, or his great leadership skills. Without means to
verify the claims, it’s hard to know whether the infor-
mation was true or fake news.

In the sixth century AD, Procopius of Caesarea
(500–ca. 554 AD), the principal historian of Byzan-
tium, used fake news to smear the Emperor Justin-
ian.2 While Procopius supported Justinian during his
lifetime, after the emperor’s death Procopius released
a treatise called Secret History that discredited the
emperor and his wife. As the emperor was dead, there
could be no retaliation, questioning, or investigations.
Since the new emperor did not favor Justinian, it is
possible the author had a motivation to distance him-
self from Justinian’s court, using the stories (often
wild and unverifiable) to do so.

Post–Printing Press Era

The invention of the printing press and the concurrent
spread of literacy made it possible to spread informa-
tion more widely. Those who were literate could eas-
ily use that ability to manipulate information to those
who were not literate. As more people became liter-
ate, it became more difficult to mislead by misrepre-
senting what was written.

As literacy rates increased, it eventually became
economically feasible to print and sell informa-
tion. This made the ability to write convincingly
and authoritatively on a topic a powerful skill. Lead-
ers have always sought to have talented writers in
their employ and to control what information was

Chapter 1

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Combating Fake News in the Digital Age Joanna M. Burkhardt

produced. Printed information became available in
different formats and from different sources. Books,
newspapers, broadsides, and cartoons were often cre-
ated by writers who had a monetary incentive. Some
were paid by a publisher to provide real news. Others,
it seems, were paid to write information for the ben-
efit of their employer.

In 1522, Italian author and satirist Pietro Aret-
ino wrote wicked sonnets, pamphlets, and plays. He
self-published his correspondence with the nobility of
Italy, using their letters to blackmail former friends
and patrons. If those individuals failed to provide the
money he required, their indiscretions became pub-
lic. He took the Roman style of pasquino—anonymous
lampooning—to a new level of satire and parody.
While his writings were satirical (not unlike today’s
Saturday Night Live satire), they planted the seeds of
doubt in the minds of their readers about the people in
power in Italy and helped to shape the complex politi-
cal reality of the time.3

Aretino’s pasquinos were followed by a French
variety of fake news known as the canard. The French
word canard can be used to mean an unfounded rumor
or story. Canards were rife during the seventeenth cen-
tury in France. One canard reported that a monster,
captured in Chile, was being shipped to France. This
report included an engraving of a dragon-like creature.
Du

Prepare: Prior to beginning work on this discussion forum, in preparation for discussing the importance of critical thinking skills, 
Read the articles

Common Misconceptions of Critical Thinking
Combating Fake News in the Digital Age
6 Critical Thinking Skills You Need to Master Now
Teaching and Learning in a Post-Truth world: It’s Time for Schools to Upgrade and Reinvest in Media Literacy Lessons
Critical Thinking and the Challenges of Internet

Watch the videos

Fake News: Part 1
Critical Thinking

Review the resources

Critical Thinking Skills
Valuable Intellectual Traits
Critical Thinking Web

Reflect: Reflect on the characteristics of a critical thinker. Critical thinking gets you involved in a dialogue with the ideas you read from others in this class. To be a critical thinker, you need to be able to summarize, analyze, hypothesize, and evaluate new information that you encounter.
Write: For this discussion, you will address the following prompts. Keep in mind that the article or video you’ve chosen should not be about critical thinking, but should be about someone making a statement, claim, or argument related to your Final Paper topic. One source should demonstrate good critical thinking skills and the other source should demonstrate the lack or absence of critical thinking skills. Personal examples should not be used.

Explain at least five elements of critical thinking that you found in the reading material.
Search the Internet, media, or the Ashford University Library, and find an example in which good critical thinking skills are being demonstrated by the author or speaker. Summarize the content and explain why you think it demonstrates good critical thinking skills.
Search the Internet, media, or the Ashford University Library, and find an example in which the author or speaker lacks good critical thinking skills. Summarize the content and explain why you think it demonstrates the absence of good, critical thinking skills.

Your initial post should be at least 250 words in length, which should include a thorough response to each prompt. You are required to provide in-text citations of applicable required reading materials and/or any other outside sources you use to support your claims. Provide full reference entries of all sources cited at the end of your response. Please use correct APA format when writing in-text citations (see In-Text Citation Helper) and references (see Formatting Your References List).

Teaching
and Learning in a
Post-Truth
World

It’s time for schools to upgrade and
reinvest in media literacy lessons.

Renee Hobbs

I
n the summer of 2016, I found a startling
announcement in my Facebook feed from
WTOE 5 News, saying, “Pope Francis Shocks
World, Endorses Donald Trump for President,
Issues Statement.”

It looked so real that I was tempted to share it
with my friends. But before I did that, I did some

research to confirm the statement, and that’s
how I learned that WTOE 5 was not a real

news outlet. Pope Francis did not endorse
any American presidential candidate.

Hobbs.indd 26 9/26/17 5:59 AM

A S C D / w w w . A S C D . o r g 27

But in those heated days before the 2016 election, nearly one
million people did share that particular story, making it one of
the top so-called “fake news” stories of 2016 (Ritchie, 2016). And
of course, there were hundreds of other examples of false and
misleading information circulating online as the fake news phe-
nomenon spread like wildfire, not just here in the United States,
but in Germany, Italy, and around the world.

Since then, there’s been a lot of talk among educators about the
importance of teaching students to critically analyze news and
information. The public is gaining awareness of our vulnerability
to media manipulation. Researchers have found that most adults
can’t accurately judge the truth or falsity of an online news story
because they assume that content that aligns with their existing
beliefs is automatically true (Goodfellow, 2017).

So-called “fake news” is rising in visibility and influence due
to the attention economy, a concept first developed by Herbert
A. Simon in 1971. Many choices are available to us as both con-
sumers and creators of media, and, sadly, it seems as if people
have adopted a problematic post-truth attitude: If it’s entertaining
or meshes with their own views, who really cares if it’s true? This
makes it easy for creators of “fake news” in a world where digital
content is cheap to produce. These sites use sensationalism (sex,
violence, children, animals, and the mysterious unknown) to
profit from viral sharing, where more clicks equals more revenue.
And when articles include emotionally inflamed or intense words
or images, they spread quickly and reach a larger audience.

Not only are we seeing more emotionally manipulative online
content, but it is also more challenging to find and validate the
source of the information we consume. Because most Americans
get their news from social media, we experience content as
unbundled snippets, without source information or context
clues to assist in interpretation. These are all good reasons to
implement media literacy education in middle and high schools.

New evidence reported in the American Educational Research
Journal by Joseph Kahne and his colleagues shows that teens
and young adults who have had some exposure to media lit-
eracy and civic education in school are better able to analyze

Today, propaganda is everywhere and it takes
new digital forms that blur the lines between
entertainment, information, and persuasion.

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28 E d u c a t i o n a l l E a d E r s h i p / n o v E m b E r 2 0 1 7

news content for accuracy and bias,
even when the story is in line with
their existing political beliefs. Based
on an online experiment with a
nationally representative survey of
young people, this study is the first
of its kind to demonstrate that civic
media literacy education can improve
the degree to which students can
distinguish between evidence-based
and inaccurate online political claims
(Kahne & Bowyer, 2017).

Teachers must take up the cause
and help students analyze and evaluate
the information they receive each day.
In a post-truth world, media literacy
matters. The future of our democracy
depends on it.

Sorting Fact from Fiction
As many commentators have observed,
the use of the term fake news conceals
more than it reveals. Although I’m
happy that many K–12 educators have
increased interest in teaching students
how to critically analyze media, I rec-
ommend that they resist using this
particular term.

Learners are far better served by a
more precise set of definitions and
concepts, including terms like propa-
ganda, disinformation, clickbait, hoaxes
and satire, pseudoscience, sponsored
content, and partisanship. These more
precise terms need to be a fundamental
part of English and social studies
education in all American secondary
schools.

Fortunately, educators around the
world are banding together to develop
resources to help educators at the sec-
ondary level teach media literacy. For
example, the European Association
for Viewers’ Interests has developed
a chart (https://eavi.eu/beyond-fake-
news-10-types-misleading-info/) that
helps people analyze and evaluate
online content simply through the
process of trying to identify the genre

of the message (EAVI, 2017).
Tools like this chart can help stu-

dents learn to critically evaluate media
messages. Students can first review the
10 definitions on the chart, looking
carefully at the legend to understand
the terms. They can then go online
to find relevant examples, checking a
variety of sources, including content
posted to social media platforms. For
instance, when I scroll through my
newsfeed on Facebook, I can find an
example of sponsored content (such as
a video that features Adult Swim’s ani-
mated TV show, “Rick and Morty”).
I notice a clickbait story urging me to
learn more about a foolproof method
for reducing wrinkles. There’s also
propaganda in the form of a dog rescue

video shared with me by an old high
school friend.

After identifying examples like this
on their own social media accounts,
students can work collaboratively
to make educated guesses about the
authors’ motivation for any particular
example. Who created this message?
Were they creating this message to
make money? To inform (or mis-
inform)? As a form of political or
social power? As a joke or a form of
humor? Or because they truly are
passionate about the issue?

Contemporary Propaganda
Of all the types of misleading news
listed in the EAVI chart, propaganda is
perhaps the most difficult for students
to understand. Propaganda, which is
generally defined as strategic com-
munication designed to activate strong
emotions, bypass critical thinking,
and shape attitudes and behaviors,
has long been an important form
of social power. But for too many
American students, the term is only
associated with historical examples
from the middle of the 20th century.
As a result of biases and omissions
in classroom instruction, some high
school and college students wrongly
think propaganda only happened in
Nazi Germany!

Today, propaganda is everywhere,
and it takes new digital forms that blur
the lines between entertainment, infor-
mation, and persuasion. Propaganda
can be found on YouTube videos,
websites, and TV news, and in movies,
music, and video games. And it doesn’t
have to be solely negative; some forms
of propaganda are actually beneficial.
Think of the public service messages
that remind you not to text and drive,
for example. Well-designed propa-
ganda activates strong feelings that
motivate people to take action.

Teachers, librarians, and school

When students
recognize the
constructed
nature of
information,
they begin to
identify the
different points
of view that are
embodied in
the choices that
authors make.

Hobbs.indd 28 9/26/17 5:59 AM

A S C D / w w w . A S C D . o r g 29

leaders are using the pedagogy of media literacy edu-
cation to teach about the different types of disinformation,
including propaganda. For example, Susan Vernon, a high
school English teacher from North Polk High School in
Iowa, used Mind Over Media: Analyzing Contemporary
Propaganda in working with her students. Mind Over
Media (www.mindovermedia.tv) is an online resource
developed at the University of Rhode Island’s Media Edu-
cation Lab, which I direct. The website includes more than
1,000 current examples of contemporary propaganda from
across the United States and around the world, on topics
including politics and current events; food, nutrition,
and health; immigration; environmental science; national
and international affairs; crime, law, and justice; health
and public policy; media and technology regulation;
animal rights; and more. It also offers free lesson plans on
exploring new forms of propaganda like viral media and
sponsored content.

Students in Ms. Vernon’s class first learned the definition
of propaganda and reviewed four common techniques used
in constructing it:

n Evoking strong emotions.
n Simplifying information and ideas.
n Appealing to audience needs.
n Attacking opponents.
The students then selected examples of propaganda

from the Mind Over Matter website and evaluated them
on a scale that runs from “harmful” to “beneficial.” When
evaluating each item, students had to make explicit their
judgments and interpretations through classroom dialogue
and by making comments using the online platform. After
students evaluated a particular example, such as a meme
related to genetically modified foods, the website’s database
showed them how others interpreted that example in
similar (and different) ways, which created an opportunity
for rich classroom discussion.

To become media literate, it is important to gain
awareness of how and why we choose to accept some
information as truthful and other information as false.
Making judgments about the potential benefits and harms
of online propaganda gives people structured opportunities
to practice the art of interpreting and evaluating media. We
get to see interpretations that are sometimes more diverse
than those we find in our local communities.

“Young people are exposed to so much information that
it is a struggle for them to form their own opinions about
major topics that impact their world,” says Steve Keim,
a high school English teacher at Southern Huntingdon
County High School/Middle School in Pennsylvania, who

recently explored the topic of contemporary propaganda
with his students through the Mind Over Media website.
Keim believes that being able to identify propaganda and
filter out quality information is a vital skill for these stu-
dents to learn so they can avoid being manipulated by news
outlets that crop up on their social media pages.

The Thanksgiving Meme
One fascinating artifact on the Mind Over Media website
is a meme featuring a reproduction of a classic painting
depicting the Puritans and American Indians in the first
Thanksgiving celebration. The painting is accompanied by
the phrase: “The irony of refusing aid and assistance to ref-
ugees/migrants while preparing to celebrate a holiday about
receiving aid and assistance as refugees/migrants.” Figure 1
shows the meme, which was shared widely online in 2016.

As the data graph under the photo shows, this meme
has been interpreted very differently by users of the Mind
Over Media website. Thirty-five percent of website users see
it as beneficial, and twenty percent see it as harmful. The
polarized results create a natural starting point for dialogue
and reflection in the classroom: Why do some people think
this meme is beneficial? Why do some see it as harmful?

To answer this question, multi-perspectival thinking is
required. High school students interpret such propaganda
in many different ways. One participant interpreted the
Thanksgiving meme as somewhat harmful, noting, “This
image calls upon old traditions in order to garner sympathy

FIGURE 1. The Thanksgiving Meme

Source: Media Education Lab. Mind Over Media www.mindovermedia.tv. Used
with permission.

Hobbs.indd 29 9/26/17 6:25 AM

for the refugees from the Middle East
war zones. This appeal to tradition is
harmful and ignorant of the changing
times. The Pilgrims were colonists
while the migrants today are refugees
under very different circumstances.
It should be noted that the colonists
caused mass genocide as well, so com-
paring the migrants of today to the
colonists of the past does not exactly
paint a pretty picture.”

Another student saw the Thanks-
giving meme as somewhat beneficial,
writing, “The pilgrims were once
migrants searching for a home, and
now the world is faced by a new chal-
lenge of greater proportion but the
same ethical question. The creator
of this piece wants the viewers to
compare the two situations at hand
and have the [United States] apply
the same hospitality to the refugees
from the Middle East. Yet, that same
hospitality didn’t work out all that well
for the Native Americans that showed
kindness to the pilgrims.”

Although their interpretations differ
widely, both students are considering
the potential intentions and motives
of the author, wondering, “Who is
the author, and what is his or her
purpose?” Two major theoretical ideas
of media literacy education that have
been articulated by the National Asso-
ciation for Media Literacy Education
(2009) are activated in this lesson: (1)
all media messages are constructed
and (2) people interpret messages dif-
ferently based on their background,

life experience, and culture. When
students recognize the constructed
nature of information, they begin to
identify the different points of view
that are embodied in the choices
authors make. They recognize that
meanings are in people, not in texts.
Through classroom dialogue and dis-
cussion, students learn to appreciate

the many different ways that media
messages can be interpreted. This
helps them activate critical thinking
skills and cultivate respect for diverse
interpretations.

Updating the Tradition
The critical examination of propa-
ganda is not new. As far back as 1938,
high school teachers were using
instructional strategies to help build
critical thinking about the propaganda
of the time, which was disseminated
through radio, newspapers, newsreels,
and popular movies. The Institute for
Propaganda Analysis (1937–1942)
developed curriculum resources and
activities that demonstrated how high
school students could take a close look
at the content of a media message and
search for evidence, verification, and
the communicator’s motives (Hobbs &
McGee, 2014).

Now it’s time to update the tra-
dition of propaganda education for the
21st century. With social media sites
and news outlets making it easy to
“select” our exposure and create echo
chambers and filter bubbles, people
today may actually get less access to
diverse points of view than in previous
eras. Often, the true funder of fake
news or propaganda is disguised or
hidden, as in the use of sock puppets
(organizations that deliver messages
without revealing the funding sources
that support them) or bots and trolls
(social media users who amplify their
voices by using computer programs or
multiple accounts).

The quality of civic education and
civic learning in public education must
be continually responsive to the lived
experience of the students we serve. If
schools are to fulfill their social
purpose of preparing students for life
in a democratic society, education
leaders will need to get creative about
how to ensure students are thoughtful

30 E d u c a t i o n a l l E a d E r s h i p / n o v E m b E r 2 0 1 7

Critically

Analyzing Media
Here’s what students should ask
every time they engage with con-
temporary propaganda.

Message: What key information
and ideas are being expressed?

Techniques: What symbols and
rhetorical strategies are used to
attract attention and activate an
emotional response? What makes
them effective?

Means of communication and
format: How does the message
reach people, and what form does
it take?

Representation: How does this
message portray people and
events? What points of view and
values are activated?

Audience receptivity: How may
people think and feel about the
message? How free are they to
accept or reject it?

“Young people are exposed to so much
information that it is a struggle for them to
be able to form their own opinions about
major topics that impact their world.”

Hobbs.indd 30 9/26/17 6:00 AM

A S C D / w w w . A S C D . o r g 31

and intelligent about the information
they consume, and that in the face of
increasing polarization, they can tell
the fake from the facts. EL

References
European Association for Viewers

Interests. (2017). Beyond fake news:
Ten types of misleading information.
https://eavi.eu/beyond-fake-news-
10-types-misleading-info

Goodfellow, J. (2017, February 6). Only
4% of people can distinguish fake
news from the truth, Channel 4 study
finds. The Drum. Retrieved from www.
thedrum.com/news/2017/02/06/only-
4-people-can-distinguish-fake-news-
truth-channel-4-study-finds

Hobbs, R., & McGee, S. (2014). Teaching
about propaganda: An examination of
the historical roots of media literacy.
Journal of Media Literacy Education, 6(2),
56–67.

Kahne, J., & Bowyer, B. (2017). Education
for democracy in a partisan age: Con-
fronting the challenges of motivated
reasoning and misinformation. American
Educational Research Journal, 54(1),
3–34.

National Association for Media Literacy
Education. (2009). Core principles of
media literacy education. Retrieved from
https://namle.net/2009/06/02/the-core-
principles-of-media-literacy-education

Ritchie, H. (2016, December 30). Read all
about it: The biggest fake news stories of
2016. CNBC. Retrieved from www.cnbc.
com/2016/12/30/read-all-about-it-the-
biggest-fake-news-stories-of-2016.html

Simon, H. (1971). Designing organiza-
tions for an information rich world.
In M. Greenberger (Ed.), Computers,
communications, and the public interest
(pp. 37–72). Baltimore, MD: The Johns
Hopkins University Press.

Renee Hobbs ([email protected]) is a pro-
fessor of communication studies and
director of the Media Education Lab
(www.mediaeducationlab.com) at the
Harrington School of Communication and
Media at the University of Rhode Island,
where she co-directs the Graduate
Certificate Program in Digital Literacy.
Her latest book is Create to Learn: Intro-
duction to Digital Literacy (Wiley, 2017).
Follow her on Twitter @reneehobbs.

EL Online
Worried your students might
develop a total distrust of the

media? Read Erik Palmer’s tips
in the online article “The Real
Problem with Fake News” at
www.ascd.org/el1117palmer.

Turn Balanced Literacy Into
Transformative Literacy

Watch ARC Core in Action
Visit our website to watch a sample
lesson americanreading.com/arc-core

ARC Core™ is a K-12
basal alternative designed
to dramatically improve
outcomes for both students
and teachers.

Available in English & Spanish

Hobbs.indd 31 9/26/17 6:00 AM

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American Library Association

Library Technology
R E P O R T S

E x p e r t G u i d e s t o L i b r a r y S y s t e m s a n d S e r v i c e s

alatechsource.org

Combating Fake News in the Digital Age

Joanna M. Burkhardt

http://alatechsource.org

Library Technology
R E P O R T S

Abstract

The issue of fake news has become very prominent
in recent months. Its power to mislead and misinform
has been made evident around the world. While fake
news is not a new phenomenon, the means by which
it is spread has changed in both speed and magni-
tude. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twit-
ter, and Instagram are fertile ground for the spread
of fake news. Algorithms known as bots are increas-
ingly being deployed to manipulate information, to
disrupt social media communication, and to gain user
attention. While technological assistance to identify
fake news are beginning to appear, they are in their
infancy. It will take time for programmers to create
software that can recognize and tag fake news with-
out human intervention. Even if technology can help
to identify fake news in the future, those who seek to
create and provide fake news will also be creating the
means to continue, creating a loop in which those who
want to avoid fake news are always playing catch up.

Individuals have the responsibility to protect
themselves from fake news. It is essential to teach
ourselves and our students and patrons to be critical
consumers of news. This issue of Library Technology
Reports (vol. 53, no. 8), “Combating Fake News in the
Digital Age,” is for librarians who serve all age levels
and who can help by teaching students both that they
need to be aware and how to be aware of fake news.
Library instruction in how to avoid fake news, how
to identify fake news, and how to stop fake news will
be essential.

Library Technology Reports (ISSN 0024-2586) is published eight times a
year (January, March, April, June, July, September, October, and Decem-
ber) by American Library Association, 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611.
It is managed by ALA TechSource, a unit of the publishing department of
ALA. Periodical postage paid at Chicago, Illinois, and at additional mail-
ing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Library Technology
Reports, 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611.

Trademarked names appear in the text of this journal. Rather than identify
or insert a trademark symbol at the appearance of each name, the authors
and the American Library Association state that the names are used for
editorial purposes exclusively, to the ultimate benefit of the owners of the
trademarks. There is absolutely no intention of infringement on the rights
of the trademark owners.

Copyright © 2017
Joanna M. Burkhardt
All Rights Reserved.

alatechsource.org

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Volume 53, Number 8

Combating Fake News in the Digital Age
ISBN: 978-0-8389-5991-6

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About the Author

Joanna M. Burkhardt is Full Professor/Librarian at the
University of Rhode Island Libraries. She is Director of
the branch libraries in Providence and Narragansett and
the URI Libraries Collection Development Manager. She
earned an MA in anthropology from the University of
Wisconsin–Madison in 1981 and an MLS from the Uni-
versity of Rhode Island in 1986. She has taught informa-
tion literacy to both students and teachers since 1999.
She has given workshops, presentations, podcasts, key-
note addresses, and panel discussions about information
literacy. She is coauthor or author of four books about
information literacy. She addressed the topic of fake news
at the ALA Annual Conference in 2017 and designed a
poster and bookmark on that topic for ALA Graphics.

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Chapter 1—History of Fake News 5
Pre–Printing Press Era 5
Post–Printing Press Era 5
Mass Media Era 6
Internet Era 6
Global Reach of Fake News 7
Notes 8

Chapter 2— How Fake News Spreads 10
Word of Mouth 10
Written Word 10
Printed Media 11
Internet 11
Social Media 12
Notes 12

Chapter 3—Can Technology Save Us? 14
Technology of Fake News 14
Big Data 15
Bots 15
Experiments in Fake News Detection 16
Experiments in Bot and Botnet Detection 17
Google and Facebook Anti–Fake News Efforts 18
Notes 19

Chapter 4—Can We Save Ourselves? 22
Learn about Search Engine Ranking 22
Be Careful about Who You “Friend” 22
ID Bots 23
Read before Sharing 23
Fact-Check 24
Evaluate Information 24
Seek Information beyond Your Filter Bubble 26
Be Skeptical 26
Use Verification and Educational Tools 26
Notes 27

Chapter 5—How Can We Help Our Students? 29
Teach Information or Media Literacy 29
Make Students Aware of Psychological Processes 30
Tie Information Literacy to Workplace Applications 30
Teach Students to Evaluate Information 31
Teach Information Literacy Skills and Concepts 31
Teach the Teachers 32
Conclusion 32
Notes 33

Contents

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Combating Fake News in the Digital Age Joanna M. Burkhardt

History of Fake News

“Massive digital misinformation is becoming pervasive
in online social media to the extent that it has been listed
by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as one of the main
threats to our society.”1

F
ake news is nothing new. While fake news was in
the headlines frequently in the 2016 US election
cycle, the origins of fake news date back to before

the printing press. Rumor and false stories have prob-
ably been around as long as humans have lived in
groups where power matters. Until the printing press
was invented, news was usually transferred from per-
son to person via word of mouth. The ability to have
an impact on what people know is an asset that has
been prized for many centuries.

Pre–Printing Press Era

Forms of writing inscribed on materials like stone,
clay, and papyrus appeared several thousand years
ago. The information in these writings was usually
limited to the leaders of the group (emperors, pha-
raohs, Incas, religious and military leaders, and so on).
Controlling information gave some people power over
others and has probably contributed to the creation
of most of the hierarchical cultures we know today.
Knowledge is power. Those controlling knowledge,
information, and the means to disseminate informa-
tion became group leaders, with privileges that others
in the group did not have. In many early state soci-
eties, remnants of the perks of leadership remain—
pyramids, castles, lavish household goods, and more.

Some of the information that has survived, carved
in stone or baked on tablets or drawn in pictograms,
extolled the wonder and power of the leaders. Often

these messages were reminders to the common peo-
ple that the leader controlled their lives. Others were
created to insure that an individual leader would be
remembered for his great prowess, his success in bat-
tle, or his great leadership skills. Without means to
verify the claims, it’s hard to know whether the infor-
mation was true or fake news.

In the sixth century AD, Procopius of Caesarea
(500–ca. 554 AD), the principal historian of Byzan-
tium, used fake news to smear the Emperor Justin-
ian.2 While Procopius supported Justinian during his
lifetime, after the emperor’s death Procopius released
a treatise called Secret History that discredited the
emperor and his wife. As the emperor was dead, there
could be no retaliation, questioning, or investigations.
Since the new emperor did not favor Justinian, it is
possible the author had a motivation to distance him-
self from Justinian’s court, using the stories (often
wild and unverifiable) to do so.

Post–Printing Press Era

The invention of the printing press and the concurrent
spread of literacy made it possible to spread informa-
tion more widely. Those who were literate could eas-
ily use that ability to manipulate information to those
who were not literate. As more people became liter-
ate, it became more difficult to mislead by misrepre-
senting what was written.

As literacy rates increased, it eventually became
economically feasible to print and sell informa-
tion. This made the ability to write convincingly
and authoritatively on a topic a powerful skill. Lead-
ers have always sought to have talented writers in
their employ and to control what information was

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Combating Fake News in the Digital Age Joanna M. Burkhardt

produced. Printed information became available in
different formats and from different sources. Books,
newspapers, broadsides, and cartoons were often cre-
ated by writers who had a monetary incentive. Some
were paid by a publisher to provide real news. Others,
it seems, were paid to write information for the ben-
efit of their employer.

In 1522, Italian author and satirist Pietro Aret-
ino wrote wicked sonnets, pamphlets, and plays. He
self-published his correspondence with the nobility of
Italy, using their letters to blackmail former friends
and patrons. If those individuals failed to provide the
money he required, their indiscretions became pub-
lic. He took the Roman style of pasquino—anonymous
lampooning—to a new level of satire and parody.
While his writings were satirical (not unlike today’s
Saturday Night Live satire), they planted the seeds of
doubt in the minds of their readers about the people in
power in Italy and helped to shape the complex politi-
cal reality of the time.3

Aretino’s pasquinos were followed by a French
variety of fake news known as the canard. The French
word canard can be used to mean an unfounded rumor
or story. Canards were rife during the seventeenth cen-
tury in France. One canard reported that a monster,
captured in Chile, was being shipped to France. This
report included an engraving of a dragon-like creature.
Du

Prepare: Prior to beginning work on this discussion forum, in preparation for discussing the importance of critical thinking skills, 
Read the articles


Common Misconceptions of Critical Thinking
Combating Fake News in the Digital Age
6 Critical Thinking Skills You Need to Master Now
Teaching and Learning in a Post-Truth world: It’s Time for Schools to Upgrade and Reinvest in Media Literacy Lessons
Critical Thinking and the Challenges of Internet





Watch the videos

Fake News: Part 1
Critical Thinking


Review the resources

Critical Thinking Skills
Valuable Intellectual Traits
Critical Thinking Web



Reflect: Reflect on the characteristics of a critical thinker. Critical thinking gets you involved in a dialogue with the ideas you read from others in this class. To be a critical thinker, you need to be able to summarize, analyze, hypothesize, and evaluate new information that you encounter.
Write: For this discussion, you will address the following prompts. Keep in mind that the article or video you’ve chosen should not be about critical thinking, but should be about someone making a statement, claim, or argument related to your Final Paper topic. One source should demonstrate good critical thinking skills and the other source should demonstrate the lack or absence of critical thinking skills. Personal examples should not be used.


Explain at least five elements of critical thinking that you found in the reading material.
Search the Internet, media, or the Ashford University Library, and find an example in which good critical thinking skills are being demonstrated by the author or speaker. Summarize the content and explain why you think it demonstrates good critical thinking skills.
Search the Internet, media, or the Ashford University Library, and find an example in which the author or speaker lacks good critical thinking skills. Summarize the content and explain why you think it demonstrates the absence of good, critical thinking skills.



Your initial post should be at least 250 words in length, which should include a thorough response to each prompt. You are required to provide in-text citations of applicable required reading materials and/or any other outside sources you use to support your claims. Provide full reference entries of all sources cited at the end of your response. Please use correct APA format when writing in-text citations (see In-Text Citation Helper) and references (see Formatting Your References List).

Teaching
and Learning in a
Post-Truth
World




It’s time for schools to upgrade and
reinvest in media literacy lessons.


Renee Hobbs

I
n the summer of 2016, I found a startling
announcement in my Facebook feed from
WTOE 5 News, saying, “Pope Francis Shocks
World, Endorses Donald Trump for President,
Issues Statement.”






It looked so real that I was tempted to share it
with my friends. But before I did that, I did some


research to confirm the statement, and that’s
how I learned that WTOE 5 was not a real


news outlet. Pope Francis did not endorse
any American presidential candidate.


Hobbs.indd 26 9/26/17 5:59 AM

A S C D / w w w . A S C D . o r g 27

But in those heated days before the 2016 election, nearly one
million people did share that particular story, making it one of
the top so-called “fake news” stories of 2016 (Ritchie, 2016). And
of course, there were hundreds of other examples of false and
misleading information circulating online as the fake news phe-
nomenon spread like wildfire, not just here in the United States,
but in Germany, Italy, and around the world.







Since then, there’s been a lot of talk among educators about the
importance of teaching students to critically analyze news and
information. The public is gaining awareness of our vulnerability
to media manipulation. Researchers have found that most adults
can’t accurately judge the truth or falsity of an online news story
because they assume that content that aligns with their existing
beliefs is automatically true (Goodfellow, 2017).







So-called “fake news” is rising in visibility and influence due
to the attention economy, a concept first developed by Herbert
A. Simon in 1971. Many choices are available to us as both con-
sumers and creators of media, and, sadly, it seems as if people
have adopted a problematic post-truth attitude: If it’s entertaining
or meshes with their own views, who really cares if it’s true? This
makes it easy for creators of “fake news” in a world where digital
content is cheap to produce. These sites use sensationalism (sex,
violence, children, animals, and the mysterious unknown) to
profit from viral sharing, where more clicks equals more revenue.
And when articles include emotionally inflamed or intense words
or images, they spread quickly and reach a larger audience.












Not only are we seeing more emotionally manipulative online
content, but it is also more challenging to find and validate the
source of the information we consume. Because most Americans
get their news from social media, we experience content as
unbundled snippets, without source information or context
clues to assist in interpretation. These are all good reasons to
implement media literacy education in middle and high schools.







New evidence reported in the American Educational Research
Journal by Joseph Kahne and his colleagues shows that teens
and young adults who have had some exposure to media lit-
eracy and civic education in school are better able to analyze




Today, propaganda is everywhere and it takes
new digital forms that blur the lines between
entertainment, information, and persuasion.



A
P


R
IL


7
0
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H
U


T
T
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S


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Hobbs.indd 27 9/26/17 5:59 AM

28 E d u c a t i o n a l l E a d E r s h i p / n o v E m b E r 2 0 1 7

news content for accuracy and bias,
even when the story is in line with
their existing political beliefs. Based
on an online experiment with a
nationally representative survey of
young people, this study is the first
of its kind to demonstrate that civic
media literacy education can improve
the degree to which students can
distinguish between evidence-based
and inaccurate online political claims
(Kahne & Bowyer, 2017).












Teachers must take up the cause
and help students analyze and evaluate
the information they receive each day.
In a post-truth world, media literacy
matters. The future of our democracy
depends on it.






Sorting Fact from Fiction
As many commentators have observed,
the use of the term fake news conceals
more than it reveals. Although I’m
happy that many K–12 educators have
increased interest in teaching students
how to critically analyze media, I rec-
ommend that they resist using this
particular term.









Learners are far better served by a
more precise set of definitions and
concepts, including terms like propa-
ganda, disinformation, clickbait, hoaxes
and satire, pseudoscience, sponsored
content, and partisanship. These more
precise terms need to be a fundamental
part of English and social studies
education in all American secondary
schools.










Fortunately, educators around the
world are banding together to develop
resources to help educators at the sec-
ondary level teach media literacy. For
example, the European Association
for Viewers’ Interests has developed
a chart (https://eavi.eu/beyond-fake-
news-10-types-misleading-info/) that
helps people analyze and evaluate
online content simply through the
process of trying to identify the genre











of the message (EAVI, 2017).
Tools like this chart can help stu-


dents learn to critically evaluate media
messages. Students can first review the
10 definitions on the chart, looking
carefully at the legend to understand
the terms. They can then go online
to find relevant examples, checking a
variety of sources, including content
posted to social media platforms. For
instance, when I scroll through my
newsfeed on Facebook, I can find an
example of sponsored content (such as
a video that features Adult Swim’s ani-
mated TV show, “Rick and Morty”).
I notice a clickbait story urging me to
learn more about a foolproof method
for reducing wrinkles. There’s also
propaganda in the form of a dog rescue

















video shared with me by an old high
school friend.


After identifying examples like this
on their own social media accounts,
students can work collaboratively
to make educated guesses about the
authors’ motivation for any particular
example. Who created this message?
Were they creating this message to
make money? To inform (or mis-
inform)? As a form of political or
social power? As a joke or a form of
humor? Or because they truly are
passionate about the issue?












Contemporary Propaganda
Of all the types of misleading news
listed in the EAVI chart, propaganda is
perhaps the most difficult for students
to understand. Propaganda, which is
generally defined as strategic com-
munication designed to activate strong
emotions, bypass critical thinking,
and shape attitudes and behaviors,
has long been an important form
of social power. But for too many
American students, the term is only
associated with historical examples
from the middle of the 20th century.
As a result of biases and omissions
in classroom instruction, some high
school and college students wrongly
think propaganda only happened in
Nazi Germany!



















Today, propaganda is everywhere,
and it takes new digital forms that blur
the lines between entertainment, infor-
mation, and persuasion. Propaganda
can be found on YouTube videos,
websites, and TV news, and in movies,
music, and video games. And it doesn’t
have to be solely negative; some forms
of propaganda are actually beneficial.
Think of the public service messages
that remind you not to text and drive,
for example. Well-designed propa-
ganda activates strong feelings that
motivate people to take action.














Teachers, librarians, and school

When students
recognize the
constructed
nature of
information,
they begin to
identify the
different points
of view that are
embodied in
the choices that
authors make.












Hobbs.indd 28 9/26/17 5:59 AM

A S C D / w w w . A S C D . o r g 29

leaders are using the pedagogy of media literacy edu-
cation to teach about the different types of disinformation,
including propaganda. For example, Susan Vernon, a high
school English teacher from North Polk High School in
Iowa, used Mind Over Media: Analyzing Contemporary
Propaganda in working with her students. Mind Over
Media (www.mindovermedia.tv) is an online resource
developed at the University of Rhode Island’s Media Edu-
cation Lab, which I direct. The website includes more than
1,000 current examples of contemporary propaganda from
across the United States and around the world, on topics
including politics and current events; food, nutrition,
and health; immigration; environmental science; national
and international affairs; crime, law, and justice; health
and public policy; media and technology regulation;
animal rights; and more. It also offers free lesson plans on
exploring new forms of propaganda like viral media and
sponsored content.


















Students in Ms. Vernon’s class first learned the definition
of propaganda and reviewed four common techniques used
in constructing it:



n Evoking strong emotions.
n Simplifying information and ideas.
n Appealing to audience needs.
n Attacking opponents.
The students then selected examples of propaganda





from the Mind Over Matter website and evaluated them
on a scale that runs from “harmful” to “beneficial.” When
evaluating each item, students had to make explicit their
judgments and interpretations through classroom dialogue
and by making comments using the online platform. After
students evaluated a particular example, such as a meme
related to genetically modified foods, the website’s database
showed them how others interpreted that example in
similar (and different) ways, which created an opportunity
for rich classroom discussion.










To become media literate, it is important to gain
awareness of how and why we choose to accept some
information as truthful and other information as false.
Making judgments about the potential benefits and harms
of online propaganda gives people structured opportunities
to practice the art of interpreting and evaluating media. We
get to see interpretations that are sometimes more diverse
than those we find in our local communities.








“Young people are exposed to so much information that
it is a struggle for them to form their own opinions about
major topics that impact their world,” says Steve Keim,
a high school English teacher at Southern Huntingdon
County High School/Middle School in Pennsylvania, who





recently explored the topic of contemporary propaganda
with his students through the Mind Over Media website.
Keim believes that being able to identify propaganda and
filter out quality information is a vital skill for these stu-
dents to learn so they can avoid being manipulated by news
outlets that crop up on their social media pages.






The Thanksgiving Meme
One fascinating artifact on the Mind Over Media website
is a meme featuring a reproduction of a classic painting
depicting the Puritans and American Indians in the first
Thanksgiving celebration. The painting is accompanied by
the phrase: “The irony of refusing aid and assistance to ref-
ugees/migrants while preparing to celebrate a holiday about
receiving aid and assistance as refugees/migrants.” Figure 1
shows the meme, which was shared widely online in 2016.









As the data graph under the photo shows, this meme
has been interpreted very differently by users of the Mind
Over Media website. Thirty-five percent of website users see
it as beneficial, and twenty percent see it as harmful. The
polarized results create a natural starting point for dialogue
and reflection in the classroom: Why do some people think
this meme is beneficial? Why do some see it as harmful?







To answer this question, multi-perspectival thinking is
required. High school students interpret such propaganda
in many different ways. One participant interpreted the
Thanksgiving meme as somewhat harmful, noting, “This
image calls upon old traditions in order to garner sympathy





FIGURE 1. The Thanksgiving Meme

Source: Media Education Lab. Mind Over Media www.mindovermedia.tv. Used
with permission.


Hobbs.indd 29 9/26/17 6:25 AM

for the refugees from the Middle East
war zones. This appeal to tradition is
harmful and ignorant of the changing
times. The Pilgrims were colonists
while the migrants today are refugees
under very different circumstances.
It should be noted that the colonists
caused mass genocide as well, so com-
paring the migrants of today to the
colonists of the past does not exactly
paint a pretty picture.”











Another student saw the Thanks-
giving meme as somewhat beneficial,
writing, “The pilgrims were once
migrants searching for a home, and
now the world is faced by a new chal-
lenge of greater proportion but the
same ethical question. The creator
of this piece wants the viewers to
compare the two situations at hand
and have the [United States] apply
the same hospitality to the refugees
from the Middle East. Yet, that same
hospitality didn’t work out all that well
for the Native Americans that showed
kindness to the pilgrims.”















Although their interpretations differ
widely, both students are considering
the potential intentions and motives
of the author, wondering, “Who is
the author, and what is his or her
purpose?” Two major theoretical ideas
of media literacy education that have
been articulated by the National Asso-
ciation for Media Literacy Education
(2009) are activated in this lesson: (1)
all media messages are constructed
and (2) people interpret messages dif-
ferently based on their background,













life experience, and culture. When
students recognize the constructed
nature of information, they begin to
identify the different points of view
that are embodied in the choices
authors make. They recognize that
meanings are in people, not in texts.
Through classroom dialogue and dis-
cussion, students learn to appreciate









the many different ways that media
messages can be interpreted. This
helps them activate critical thinking
skills and cultivate respect for diverse
interpretations.





Updating the Tradition
The critical examination of propa-
ganda is not new. As far back as 1938,
high school teachers were using
instructional strategies to help build
critical thinking about the propaganda
of the time, which was disseminated
through radio, newspapers, newsreels,
and popular movies. The Institute for
Propaganda Analysis (1937–1942)
developed curriculum resources and
activities that demonstrated how high
school students could take a close look
at the content of a media message and
search for evidence, verification, and
the communicator’s motives (Hobbs &
McGee, 2014).

















Now it’s time to update the tra-
dition of propaganda education for the
21st century. With social media sites
and news outlets making it easy to
“select” our exposure and create echo
chambers and filter bubbles, people
today may actually get less access to
diverse points of view than in previous
eras. Often, the true funder of fake
news or propaganda is disguised or
hidden, as in the use of sock puppets
(organizations that deliver messages
without revealing the funding sources
that support them) or bots and trolls
(social media users who amplify their
voices by using computer programs or
multiple accounts).

















The quality of civic education and
civic learning in public education must
be continually responsive to the lived
experience of the students we serve. If
schools are to fulfill their social
purpose of preparing students for life
in a democratic society, education
leaders will need to get creative about
how to ensure students are thoughtful









30 E d u c a t i o n a l l E a d E r s h i p / n o v E m b E r 2 0 1 7

Critically

Analyzing Media
Here’s what students should ask
every time they engage with con-
temporary propaganda.




Message: What key information
and ideas are being expressed?


Techniques: What symbols and
rhetorical strategies are used to
attract attention and activate an
emotional response? What makes
them effective?





Means of communication and
format: How does the message
reach people, and what form does
it take?




Representation: How does this
message portray people and
events? What points of view and
values are activated?




Audience receptivity: How may
people think and feel about the
message? How free are they to
accept or reject it?




“Young people are exposed to so much
information that it is a struggle for them to
be able to form their own opinions about
major topics that impact their world.”




Hobbs.indd 30 9/26/17 6:00 AM

A S C D / w w w . A S C D . o r g 31

and intelligent about the information
they consume, and that in the face of
increasing polarization, they can tell
the fake from the facts. EL




References
European Association for Viewers


Interests. (2017). Beyond fake news:
Ten types of misleading information.
https://eavi.eu/beyond-fake-news-
10-types-misleading-info




Goodfellow, J. (2017, February 6). Only
4% of people can distinguish fake
news from the truth, Channel 4 study
finds. The Drum. Retrieved from www.
thedrum.com/news/2017/02/06/only-
4-people-can-distinguish-fake-news-
truth-channel-4-study-finds







Hobbs, R., & McGee, S. (2014). Teaching
about propaganda: An examination of
the historical roots of media literacy.
Journal of Media Literacy Education, 6(2),
56–67.





Kahne, J., & Bowyer, B. (2017). Education
for democracy in a partisan age: Con-
fronting the challenges of motivated
reasoning and misinformation. American
Educational Research Journal, 54(1),
3–34.






National Association for Media Literacy
Education. (2009). Core principles of
media literacy education. Retrieved from
https://namle.net/2009/06/02/the-core-
principles-of-media-literacy-education





Ritchie, H. (2016, December 30). Read all
about it: The biggest fake news stories of
2016. CNBC. Retrieved from www.cnbc.
com/2016/12/30/read-all-about-it-the-
biggest-fake-news-stories-of-2016.html





Simon, H. (1971). Designing organiza-
tions for an information rich world.
In M. Greenberger (Ed.), Computers,
communications, and the public interest
(pp. 37–72). Baltimore, MD: The Johns
Hopkins University Press.






Renee Hobbs ([email protected]) is a pro-
fessor of communication studies and
director of the Media Education Lab
(www.mediaeducationlab.com) at the
Harrington School of Communication and
Media at the University of Rhode Island,
where she co-directs the Graduate
Certificate Program in Digital Literacy.
Her latest book is Create to Learn: Intro-
duction to Digital Literacy (Wiley, 2017).
Follow her on Twitter @reneehobbs.











EL Online
Worried your students might
develop a total distrust of the



media? Read Erik Palmer’s tips
in the online article “The Real
Problem with Fake News” at
www.ascd.org/el1117palmer.




Turn Balanced Literacy Into
Transformative Literacy


Watch ARC Core in Action
Visit our website to watch a sample
lesson americanreading.com/arc-core



ARC Core™ is a K-12
basal alternative designed
to dramatically improve
outcomes for both students
and teachers.





Available in English & Spanish

Hobbs.indd 31 9/26/17 6:00 AM

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American Library Association

Library Technology
R E P O R T S


E x p e r t G u i d e s t o L i b r a r y S y s t e m s a n d S e r v i c e s

alatechsource.org

Combating Fake News in the Digital Age

Joanna M. Burkhardt

http://alatechsource.org

Library Technology
R E P O R T S


Abstract

The issue of fake news has become very prominent
in recent months. Its power to mislead and misinform
has been made evident around the world. While fake
news is not a new phenomenon, the means by which
it is spread has changed in both speed and magni-
tude. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twit-
ter, and Instagram are fertile ground for the spread
of fake news. Algorithms known as bots are increas-
ingly being deployed to manipulate information, to
disrupt social media communication, and to gain user
attention. While technological assistance to identify
fake news are beginning to appear, they are in their
infancy. It will take time for programmers to create
software that can recognize and tag fake news with-
out human intervention. Even if technology can help
to identify fake news in the future, those who seek to
create and provide fake news will also be creating the
means to continue, creating a loop in which those who
want to avoid fake news are always playing catch up.



















Individuals have the responsibility to protect
themselves from fake news. It is essential to teach
ourselves and our students and patrons to be critical
consumers of news. This issue of Library Technology
Reports (vol. 53, no. 8), “Combating Fake News in the
Digital Age,” is for librarians who serve all age levels
and who can help by teaching students both that they
need to be aware and how to be aware of fake news.
Library instruction in how to avoid fake news, how
to identify fake news, and how to stop fake news will
be essential.











Library Technology Reports (ISSN 0024-2586) is published eight times a
year (January, March, April, June, July, September, October, and Decem-
ber) by American Library Association, 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611.
It is managed by ALA TechSource, a unit of the publishing department of
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Reports, 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611.







Trademarked names appear in the text of this journal. Rather than identify
or insert a trademark symbol at the appearance of each name, the authors
and the American Library Association state that the names are used for
editorial purposes exclusively, to the ultimate benefit of the owners of the
trademarks. There is absolutely no intention of infringement on the rights
of the trademark owners.






Copyright © 2017
Joanna M. Burkhardt
All Rights Reserved.



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Volume 53, Number 8

Combating Fake News in the Digital Age
ISBN: 978-0-8389-5991-6


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About the Author

Joanna M. Burkhardt is Full Professor/Librarian at the
University of Rhode Island Libraries. She is Director of
the branch libraries in Providence and Narragansett and
the URI Libraries Collection Development Manager. She
earned an MA in anthropology from the University of
Wisconsin–Madison in 1981 and an MLS from the Uni-
versity of Rhode Island in 1986. She has taught informa-
tion literacy to both students and teachers since 1999.
She has given workshops, presentations, podcasts, key-
note addresses, and panel discussions about information
literacy. She is coauthor or author of four books about
information literacy. She addressed the topic of fake news
at the ALA Annual Conference in 2017 and designed a
poster and bookmark on that topic for ALA Graphics.














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Chapter 1—History of Fake News 5
Pre–Printing Press Era 5
Post–Printing Press Era 5
Mass Media Era 6
Internet Era 6
Global Reach of Fake News 7
Notes 8







Chapter 2— How Fake News Spreads 10
Word of Mouth 10
Written Word 10
Printed Media 11
Internet 11
Social Media 12
Notes 12







Chapter 3—Can Technology Save Us? 14
Technology of Fake News 14
Big Data 15
Bots 15
Experiments in Fake News Detection 16
Experiments in Bot and Botnet Detection 17
Google and Facebook Anti–Fake News Efforts 18
Notes 19








Chapter 4—Can We Save Ourselves? 22
Learn about Search Engine Ranking 22
Be Careful about Who You “Friend” 22
ID Bots 23
Read before Sharing 23
Fact-Check 24
Evaluate Information 24
Seek Information beyond Your Filter Bubble 26
Be Skeptical 26
Use Verification and Educational Tools 26
Notes 27











Chapter 5—How Can We Help Our Students? 29
Teach Information or Media Literacy 29
Make Students Aware of Psychological Processes 30
Tie Information Literacy to Workplace Applications 30
Teach Students to Evaluate Information 31
Teach Information Literacy Skills and Concepts 31
Teach the Teachers 32
Conclusion 32
Notes 33









Contents

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Combating Fake News in the Digital Age Joanna M. Burkhardt

History of Fake News

“Massive digital misinformation is becoming pervasive
in online social media to the extent that it has been listed
by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as one of the main
threats to our society.”1




F
ake news is nothing new. While fake news was in
the headlines frequently in the 2016 US election
cycle, the origins of fake news date back to before




the printing press. Rumor and false stories have prob-
ably been around as long as humans have lived in
groups where power matters. Until the printing press
was invented, news was usually transferred from per-
son to person via word of mouth. The ability to have
an impact on what people know is an asset that has
been prized for many centuries.







Pre–Printing Press Era

Forms of writing inscribed on materials like stone,
clay, and papyrus appeared several thousand years
ago. The information in these writings was usually
limited to the leaders of the group (emperors, pha-
raohs, Incas, religious and military leaders, and so on).
Controlling information gave some people power over
others and has probably contributed to the creation
of most of the hierarchical cultures we know today.
Knowledge is power. Those controlling knowledge,
information, and the means to disseminate informa-
tion became group leaders, with privileges that others
in the group did not have. In many early state soci-
eties, remnants of the perks of leadership remain—
pyramids, castles, lavish household goods, and more.














Some of the information that has survived, carved
in stone or baked on tablets or drawn in pictograms,
extolled the wonder and power of the leaders. Often



these messages were reminders to the common peo-
ple that the leader controlled their lives. Others were
created to insure that an individual leader would be
remembered for his great prowess, his success in bat-
tle, or his great leadership skills. Without means to
verify the claims, it’s hard to know whether the infor-
mation was true or fake news.







In the sixth century AD, Procopius of Caesarea
(500–ca. 554 AD), the principal historian of Byzan-
tium, used fake news to smear the Emperor Justin-
ian.2 While Procopius supported Justinian during his
lifetime, after the emperor’s death Procopius released
a treatise called Secret History that discredited the
emperor and his wife. As the emperor was dead, there
could be no retaliation, questioning, or investigations.
Since the new emperor did not favor Justinian, it is
possible the author had a motivation to distance him-
self from Justinian’s court, using the stories (often
wild and unverifiable) to do so.












Post–Printing Press Era

The invention of the printing press and the concurrent
spread of literacy made it possible to spread informa-
tion more widely. Those who were literate could eas-
ily use that ability to manipulate information to those
who were not literate. As more people became liter-
ate, it became more difficult to mislead by misrepre-
senting what was written.







As literacy rates increased, it eventually became
economically feasible to print and sell informa-
tion. This made the ability to write convincingly
and authoritatively on a topic a powerful skill. Lead-
ers have always sought to have talented writers in
their employ and to control what information was






Chapter 1

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Combating Fake News in the Digital Age Joanna M. Burkhardt

produced. Printed information became available in
different formats and from different sources. Books,
newspapers, broadsides, and cartoons were often cre-
ated by writers who had a monetary incentive. Some
were paid by a publisher to provide real news. Others,
it seems, were paid to write information for the ben-
efit of their employer.







In 1522, Italian author and satirist Pietro Aret-
ino wrote wicked sonnets, pamphlets, and plays. He
self-published his correspondence with the nobility of
Italy, using their letters to blackmail former friends
and patrons. If those individuals failed to provide the
money he required, their indiscretions became pub-
lic. He took the Roman style of pasquino—anonymous
lampooning—to a new level of satire and parody.
While his writings were satirical (not unlike today’s
Saturday Night Live satire), they planted the seeds of
doubt in the minds of their readers about the people in
power in Italy and helped to shape the complex politi-
cal reality of the time.3













Aretino’s pasquinos were followed by a French
variety of fake news known as the canard. The French
word canard can be used to mean an unfounded rumor
or story. Canards were rife during the seventeenth cen-
tury in France. One canard reported that a monster,
captured in Chile, was being shipped to France. This
report included an engraving of a dragon-like creature.
Du








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