“Be skeptical, not cynical.” Lori Robertson, managing editor of Factcheck.org
While it’s important to be skeptical of political news, especially during an election, it’s also important to be able to recognize and dismiss outright disinformation: the deliberate spreading of false or misleading information. The content of political disinformation spans a wide spectrum, from stories that might be credible (such as an endorsement of a politician from a surprising source) to those that are utterly unbelievable (such as the accusation that a candidate for national office is involved in a child-exploitation ring housed in the basement of a pizza parlour). Those spreading disinformation can include governments, political activists and even for-profit publishers (some of whom run multiple disinformation operations that cater to different parts of the political spectrum).
This section will explore how to read election and political news critically, how to recognize misinformation (information that is incorrect) and disinformation (the deliberate spreading of false or misleading information), and how to be a more active and engaged consumer of political news.
Most of us turn to online sources for news, whether it’s reading a newspaper online or sharing a news story with our friends and family. But news stories are one of the hardest things to verify: sometimes early reports that turn out not to be true still circulate on social media and people may spread false reports for political or commercial reasons, or just for “fun.”
Journalism has been described as the lifeblood of democracy, and elections, likewise, have long been journalism’s bread and butter. The relationship between the two, however, has always been fraught. Even Thomas Jefferson, a lifelong advocate for freedom of the press, said while he was president that “nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”
The Parenting the Digital Generation workshop looks at the various activities kids love to do online and offers tips and strategies for everything from Facebook privacy settings, online shopping, cyberbullying, to protecting your computer from viruses.
This lesson introduces the students to the first steps in finding information on the Internet. Specifically, this lesson helps students understand the basic good practices of searching for something online: be accompanied by a trusted adult, start with a safe site and understand the use and power of using good links and keywords to find what they are looking for and to avoid bad results.
Two of the most important kinds of information we look for online are about health and science. These can have a big effect on decisions we make about our own lives and our opinions on controversial issues.
Though health and science topics are subject to the same kinds of misinformation found everywhere, there are two types that are particularly common in these fields: denialism and snake oil.
Probably the most essential factor in accurately and objectively judging health and science information is to understand how science is done.