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Central High School Library: Information Literacy

How to be a savvy information and news consumer

How to Spot a Fake Twitter Post

Check the account history of the source. Two red flags are: the number of posts and how long the account has been active. If it claims to be a well know source(like CNN or CBS) and only has a few posts in its history that is a clue. If it's a well know source and the account has only been active a short time that is another red flag.

Images of an event are often reused to deceive people. You can check if an image has been used before on a reverse image search service like TinEye or Google Images.

Which of the following accounts is fake? How can you tell?

                                      Barack Obama twitter 1 image with american flag in background                            Barack Obama twitter 2 image with black background and Obama Biden written at bottom of timage

News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017 
by Elizabeth Shearer and Jeffery Gottfried. Pew Research Center/Journalism and Media

Fake Videos?
Nearly all of us have been taken in by a video that was later found to have been doctored or faked. It is fairly easy to edit a video so that it looks like you made the basket or the hawk picked up the snake. Here are some of the most famous faked videos that fooled millions:

These Viral Videos Were Fake?!

Some tips to help you tell if a video is fake:

The Physics of Fake Videos

Citizen Evidence Lab

Balance - equality between the totals of the two (or more) sides of the account. Balance is a more technical term than fairness. It's a quantitative measurement that can be used as a tool to achieve fairness, especially in cases where the facts are in dispute or the truth is still developing.

Bias - a predisposition that distorts your ability to fairly weigh the evidence and prevents you from reaching a fair or accurate judgment.

Clickbait - a sensationalized headline or piece of text on the Internet designed to entice people to follow a link to an article on another Web page.

Confirmation Bias - pursuing information that reassures or reflects a person’s particular point of view.

Content Farm -  a website that exploits the way search engines retrieve and rank pages by incorporating popular search terms and topics in its content, often with little attention to the originality, appropriateness, or quality of the subject matter, in order to elevate the ranking of its articles in online search results and attract advertisers.

Context - background or ancillary information that is necessary to understand the scope, impact, magnitude or meaning of new facts reported as news ... the circumstances that form the setting for an event or statement ... ideas or facts that give greater meaning to a news report so that it can be fully understood and assessed.

Glurge - the body of inspirational tales which conceal much darker meanings than the uplifting moral lessons they purport to offer, and which undermine their messages by fabricating and distorting historical fact in the guise of offering "true stories." Glurge often contains such heart-tugging elements as sad-eyed puppies, sweet-faced children, angels, dying mothers, or miraculous rescues brought about by prayer. These stories are meant to be parables for modern times but fall far short of the mark.

Hoax - something intended to deceive or defraud; to deceive by a hoax; hoodwink.

Ostension - the process of unwittingly acting out or mimicking the greater part (if not the entirety) of an urban legend that is already part of the body of lore. More simply, if the events described in an urban legend which had been around since 1950 actually did indeed spontaneously play out in real life in 1992, that would be an example of ostension. (In other words, just because something actually happened doesn't mean it's not an urban legend!)

Propaganda - information, ideas or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution or nation. It is often biased and misleading, in order to promote an ideology or point of view.

Satire - the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.

Urban Legend - a specific class of legend, differentiated from "ordinary" legends by their being provided and believed as accounts of actual incidents that befell or were witnessed by someone the teller almost knows (e.g., his sister's hairdresser's mechanic). These tales are told as true, local, and recent occurrences, and often contain names of places or entities located within the teller's neighborhood or surrounding region.

Definitions from,  Snopes, and The Stony Brook University Center for News Literacy 

If your mother says she loves you, check it out - old newspaper saying

Below we have included several tips and suggestions for being a savvy consumer of information - whether it comes from social media, news sites, or a text from your friend. Many of the resources on this page come from an article by librarian Joyce Valenzaan Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication.

  • Who says? - Click on the 'About Us' or 'About Me' section of a website to evaluate the site's credentials and possible biases.
  • Check sources  - Click links - try to find the original study or news article being referred to and make sure it actually says what your source claims.
  • Look for multiple sources - While every news organization is looking for a 'scoop,' if no one else is reporting something, it may be cause for a deeper look.
  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is - Trust your instincts. Inflated headlines and outrageous claims all deserve a closer look. Be cautious of absolutes like 'always' or 'never' - things are rarely that clear-cut.
  • Beware of cherry-picking - Just because a source is presenting accurate information it doesn't mean it's presenting all the information. Look out for sites that only present facts favorable to their position.
  • Pictures can lie - Images and video can be manipulated. Use the same criteria to evaluate images that you would use to check words. Even if an image hasn't been manipulated, it may not be accurately described. 
  • Is this an ad? - Fake news sites and content farms often create outrageous headlines hoping for clicks, which earn them money through advertising. 
  • Check the Web address - Look for unusual domain names. Fake news sites often try to mimic a real news organization but change the .com to .co, or get the name slightly wrong.

Resources for teachers

Massachusetts Frameworks

2016 Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science

9-12.CAS.c.5 Analyze the beneficial and harmful effects of computing innovations (e.g., social networking, delivery of news and other public media, intercultural communication)

9-12.CAS.c.7 Identify ways to use technology to support lifelong learning.

9-12.DTC.c.3 Evaluate digital sources needed to solve a given problem (e.g., reliability, point of view, relevancy).

9-12.DTC.c.4 Gather, organize, analyze, and synthesize information using a variety of digital tools.

Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy, March 2011

W. 8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

W. 9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research

RL 7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats and media, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

RL 8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence. 

American Association of School Librarians, Standards for the 21st Century Learner

1.1.5 Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context

1.1.7 Make sense of information gathered from diverse sources by identifying misconceptions, main and supporting ideas, conflicting information, and point of view or bias.

2.4.1 Determine how to act on information (accept, reject, modify).

2.4.2 Reflect on the systematic process and assess for completeness of investigation.

2.4.3 Recognize new knowledge and understanding.

2.4.4 Develop directions for future investigations.


Infographic from blog for evaluating a news article found online.
Can be useful in evaluating a website as well

evaluating a news article infographic depicting the flow of news sources and fact checking

This news quality chart was created by Vanessa Otero. When it went viral it was often labeled "a decent breakdown of sources of real and fake news ...".  
Read Otero's explanation of the chart and labels.

Media Bias Chart updated 3rd edition Vanessa Otero

Otero's News Quality chart 3rd version 2017

earlier version 2016:

Otero's news quality chart 2016 version


Here is a blank graphic. Fill in with your own sources. Printable v1.     Printable v3

Otero's news quality chart with blank areas to fill in with your own data

What is Information Literacy?

The American Library Association defines information literacy as
"possessing the set of skills to 
recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information."

Why is this important?
Oxford Dictionaries recently announced post-truth as its 2016 international Word of the Year. Oxford defines the word as relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion
than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

In 2005, Stephen Colbert coined the term "truthiness" which Wikipedia defines as "a quality characterizing a 'truth' that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively 'from the gut' or because it 'feels right' without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts."

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Newton, MA 02460