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Discussion: "Fake" news

in: Bash; Bash > 2016-11-16

Nov 17, 2016 11:38 AM # 
Bash, that's a great document, but the author herself is against calling it a list of fake news sites.

While some of the sites are regularly misleading and others are deliberately "fake", i.e. satirical, still others (category 3) are more fake headlines as they are categorized for their tendency to "clickbait". I couldn't agree more about the need for critical evaluation of our sources of information - and how that evaluation needs to have changed from ten years ago - but we also need to be careful about oversimplifying the issue.

Interestingly, the author herself is a rather reluctant champion here; she wrote the list for a class of hers and posted with no expectation of the attendant publicity.
Nov 17, 2016 2:44 PM # 
The document's academic origin is one of the things I really like about it. She seems committed to keeping it updated after receiving considerable input now that it's gone viral.

True, "fake" is not the word she uses or condones. I tend to think of it as fake journalism rather than fake news since there are so many methods, reasons and results. Ironically, I found her list in a New York Mag article about it entitled, "A Helpful List of Fake News Sites to watch out for on Facebook" and I used their shorthand title to save typing without critiquing whether it was appropriate.

Her full title is "False, Misleading, Clickbait-y and/or Satirical News Sources". I'll change it in my log.
Nov 17, 2016 3:44 PM # 
Coincidentally we're teaching about confirmation bias in class today - the idea that when you are looking for evidence to support an idea or position, that you tend to pick out sources that support your existing position. The students have a homework where they have to not only justify their opinions, but explain any bias they see in their sources. We're talking about science topics (GMOs, fracking and using technology to bring back extinct species) but it works for everything.
Nov 17, 2016 4:33 PM # 
Facebook's algorithm to determine your feed is a great example of confirmation bias!
Nov 17, 2016 4:39 PM # 
Exactly! And my email inbox is already so full that I only subscribe to e-newsletters from organizations I want to hear from. Probably most people here have already seen the debate about whether Facebook affected the election, including concerns expressed by their own employees.

Abizeleth, glad you are teaching students about confirmation bias in science too! It's one of my longtime interests, having dabbled in journalism, but current events have brought it to the fore.

One recent example is a very old friend of mine - a really smart guy - who is 100% certain that Hillary killed several people. Because I respect him, I wanted to dig and try to find out more about the sources that convinced him of that. That took me into places I'd normally never see, given how much the Internet loves confirmation bias. Useful.

Closer to home, a current question is whether there has been an increase in hate incidents in Ontario since the election, with disagreement among different sources. Maybe we're only hearing about the Ottawa rabbi with the swastika sprayed on her front door because hatred is an important news story right now. Maybe the white nationalist group recruiting on lamp posts in Toronto was planning to do that this week anyway. The man shouting racist things on the Toronto streetcar did say "Go Trump!" according to witnesses but Trump obviously didn't turn him into a racist. So far, the answer is inconclusive but there is a sense of greater boldness. Also, a Conservative leadership candidate (the leading fundraiser in the race as of Nov. 1) believes Trump's campaign had "an exciting message and one that we need delivered in Canada, as well."
Nov 17, 2016 6:29 PM # 
Tuesday in class we talked about false-consensus bias - the idea that we often surround ourselves with people who think like we do and share our beliefs, so that we think that more people agree with us than actually do. For some Americans, last week was a very painful lesson in false-consensus bias.

(My class didn't address the election directly, since it's about science, though. Although we did have students write on notecards last week about how they were feeling and then read each other's anonymous cards, as a way of promoting empathy.)

It doesn't help that the media sources I often look at portray the other side as being racist, crazy and/or ignorant. So often the interviews about why people voted for Trump end with someone wearing an inflammatory hat or shirt and saying very earnestly, "He just tells it like it is!!" I have to believe that people must have had a more rational reason than that for voting for him, and I'm trying to understand. But it's hard to get past my own anger and fear sometimes.
Nov 17, 2016 6:46 PM # 
On Facebook before the election, I had a polite exchange with a pro-Trump friend and his friends where I asked them to explain what "tell it like it is" meant to them since they were cheerfully saying it, and it clearly wasn't as simple as "tell the truth". They explained that Clinton speaks carefully, expressing pre-planned thoughts and policies, whereas Trump expresses his honest emotions. For them, "telling it like it is" did not refer to the content of what was said but rather the belief that he spoke from the heart whereas she spoke from a script.
Nov 17, 2016 7:04 PM # 
Unrelated to politics, it's a constant project to check sources for interesting health-related or environmental info that I come across. Luckily, the concept of peer review helps to some extent but it's not perfect, and I imagine that's part of what you discuss in your class. I really WANT to believe that more chocolate will help me live longer...
Nov 17, 2016 7:27 PM # 
Yes, we talk about vetting sources and peer review and how you detect if something is biased.

Though I had a bit of a moment of panic at one moment when one student talked about .gov websites as being more reliable than .com. When the EPA and NSF are headed by climate change deniers, I think those sites may become a lot less reliable.... And that made me sad.
Nov 17, 2016 7:49 PM # 
We are in the age of Truthiness
Nov 17, 2016 8:04 PM # 
And that's The Word! :)

Since it fits with this discussion, here are the best Media Bias Rating sites I've found so far but there must be other good ones.

For now, my favourite is Media Bias / Fact Check, which includes Canadian sources, which most of them don't. It claims to be The Most Comprehensive Media Bias Resource although rating bias is a black art. Not every media source consistently publishes news with the same slant, and the people evaluating that slant have their own biases. But it looks reasonable based on the news sources I'm familiar with. Not surprisingly, it says that I regularly read Left-Centre news.

This 2014 Business Insider (rated Left-Centre above) article looks at some major U.S. news sources and their demographics, which is interesting. It includes things like The Daily Show as well as the Washington Post.
Nov 18, 2016 3:54 AM # 
The original document this thread was based on has had the list of news sources removed from it temporarily while more work is done on it. I guess that's what happens when a diligent academic goes viral! ;)
Nov 19, 2016 5:46 AM # 
The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2016 is "post-truth".
Nov 20, 2016 10:33 PM # 
at risk of feeding that troll i saw this on twitter:

Post-truth = lying
Fake news = propaganda
Alt-right = white supremacy

Prevent double-speak.
Use the correct words.

How long until 1984 terminology enter into this doubleplus ungood world?
Nov 20, 2016 10:55 PM # 
Sometimes we try too hard to be polite.

CBC Radio's weekly call-in show, Cross-Country Checkup, is discussing fake/misleading news right now.
Nov 23, 2016 4:56 AM # 
We could get rich writing fake news!
Nov 24, 2016 5:19 AM # 
NPR report on a Stanford study that discovered students from middle school to college are surprisingly poor at assessing the credibility of information sources. Yikes, this is our future!
Nov 24, 2016 5:30 AM # 
Btw the professor's list of False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources has been moved to a new link.

She is paying a price for academic freedom. One of the news sites on her list,, published a personal attack against her.

I checked the Media Bias link posted earlier in this thread and here's what it says about ZeroHedge:

These sources publish false information that cannot be validated or are related to pseudoscience. The information on these sites is speculation that is not supported by evidence. These are the most untrustworthy sources in media.

Notes: Zero Hedge is a financial blog that aggregates news and presents editorial opinions from original and outside sources. In between the aggregated news there are crazy economic conspiracies and general right wing biases.
Nov 25, 2016 4:03 PM # 
On Facebook, Cristina posted a fascinating NPR interview with an American fake news producer.

Also, Samantha Bee went to Russia before the election and interviewed fake news writers wearing balaclavas to avoid recognition.
Nov 27, 2016 6:32 PM # 
Now I'm all mad again.
Nov 28, 2016 10:46 AM # 

Oh and my fave tweet I saw yesterday....

"In addition to winning the 1967 Stanley Cup, the Maple Leafs won all subsequent Cups if you deduct the dozens of teams who won illegally"
Nov 28, 2016 3:17 PM # 

This article raises a good point. Even responsible media outlets often publish headlines that inadvertently help to spread false information, given the propensity of people to only read headlines on social media. If we're alert and contact the news sources we read, we can play a small part in preventing the spread of inaccurate information.
Nov 29, 2016 3:24 PM # 
A different take on this topic: there are people who think that 9/11, mass shootings in the U.S., the moon landing and climate change are all fake news. I have an otherwise intelligent friend who pities me for believing otherwise.

The daughter of the principal slain in the Sandy Hook Massacre wants people to speak out when they hear fake "history" instead of just rolling their eyes, and she wants Trump to stop supporting a prominent Sandy Hook "truther".
Nov 30, 2016 8:24 PM # 
This subject has been all over the news in the past two weeks so there's not much new to say but here are some useful sites for evaluating media sources, put here to make it easier for me to find them quickly! Needless to say, different bias rating sites do not always agree but they're usually close.

Media Bias Fact Check

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y or Satirical News Sources

PropOrNot - Sites That Reliably Echo Russian Propaganda

Allsides Bias Ratings

Here's How Liberal Or Conservative Major News Sources Really Are - Business Insider
Dec 4, 2016 4:17 AM # 
"The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed." - Adolf Hitler
Dec 5, 2016 6:39 PM # 
Fake news story inspired a citizen to fire a rifle while "investigating" a Washington pizzeria that he believed to be the base for a child sex ring operated by Hillary Clinton.
Dec 13, 2016 5:00 PM # 
Another good analysis of news sources, including many frequently shared on Facebook. Provides lots of info at a glance but not useful for Canadian news sources.
Dec 15, 2016 10:39 PM # 
Facebook is about to start marking some articles as "Disputed" if third party fact checking organizations have determined them to be false. Progress!
Feb 7, 2017 7:42 PM # 
Interesting/scary article in Vanity Fair about the future of fake news: altered video and audio.
Feb 8, 2017 1:38 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Small world, we watched the face capture video in computer vision class
Feb 8, 2017 3:26 AM # 
It's amazing!
Mar 13, 2017 1:56 AM # 
Mar 13, 2017 2:59 AM # 
Oh, you left wing scientists! ;) To be fair, it sounds like Mr. W looks at lots of science books.
Mar 15, 2017 2:37 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Shhh, it's easier when everyone thinks you're ignorant.

This discussion thread is closed.