Fool Me Once, Shame On You; Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me

Cabin in the Woods

The day I found out Morgan Freeman had (allegedly) died was a dark one, and one that I had been misinformed by the most (un)reliable of news sources Facebook. The story had originated from Action News 3 and had been shared and posted all over the shop. Thankfully the voice of the Shawshank Redemption is alive and well. I believe that some news purveyors have misinterpreted the THINK acronym and replaced it with FUN (False Unnecessary Nuisance) one instead. More recently I was also misinformed regarding the tragic terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, when the BBC and CNN had reported, based on information from government sources, death tolls of over 350; only to be revised down, thankfully, to 253, days later (source BBC).

The amount of misinformation and the speed at which it spreads is shocking, or is it? We live at a time when we want to get the latest Notre Dam billionaire benefactor news, Trump tweet, or Games of Thrones analysis as soon as possible. We want the shock and awe, so I am not in the least bit surprised that this misinformation has spread so quickly that it has matched that a measles outbreak contagion rate; which is another great example of misinformation – well done anti vaccers. Furthermore, just look at the percentage of US urbanites using social media*, and isn’t this also where, according to a Wired article, 68% of respondents in a Pew survey, say they get their news from. A whopping 75% of US adults urbanites in January 2018.

Maybe the only way to avoid being misinformed is to live in a cabin in the woods.

Photo by Nikola Knezevic on Unsplash

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

“We send the EU £350 million a week” was the incorrect number displayed on a large red bus during the disastrously run Brexit campaign; and it was one that some of my more right of centre minded colleagues back in London (I didn’t have many) fell for. And by fell for I mean that they went on to vote to leave the EU, their decision partially based on this fake news. The number has been proven to be incorrect by various news organisations including Channel 4 News, BBC, The Guardian; based on information from fullfact.org. I will stop here for the sake of getting into a political rant and move onto how our more vulnerable students are being hoodwinked by media.

In a story that gripped Grade 4,5 and 6 students throughout our school and perhaps beyond, was the 14 Days of Fortnite alleged extension. Despite having how long the event would last for in the title, according to a story from slashgear.com (with an official tweet from Epic) some social media users had planted the seed that the event would be extended – it wasn’t. Now although this may seem trivial to me, it is the centre of a lot of young gamers universe, and as such they were let down by the failed promise of an extension on the event.

I am in partial agreement with some of the experts, according to this PEW article, and think that technology only serves to aid the dark side of humanity. However, I believe that with the increase in fake news, will also come a rise in societies (perhaps aided by ethical technology) perception to weed out the wheat from the chaff. I think we are on the cusp of a technological sea change of believing the first tweet that pops up in our feed.  And maybe, in time, much like the boy that cried wolf, we will pay less attention to the people and platforms spreading the misinformation.

Consuming and Sharing

“What actions might you take to support your students in responsibly consuming and sharing information?” A good starting point would be to deconstruct what each of these words mean i.e. responsible – consume – share.

  1. To be responsible means that you take ownership of something, whether it turns out to be good or bad.
  2. To consume would mean to use something, in this case read, watch or play.
  3. To share means to pass something that you have consumed on.

Now that I’ve got my elementary definitions out of the way, I need a plan to disseminate this to my students, colleagues and friends; and I can think of an example* starting with the own news that I consume and in turn share. *Thanks to itstillworks.com for the inspiration and IFLA for the fantastic critical thinking poster.

Step 1: after reading or watching a news story verify the author. Check what articles they have written in the past. Is there any bias? Which websites, companies or news channels, magazines have they written for in the past.

Step 2: Compare the story to other stories in other reputable websites. Are there any consistencies between the facts reported.

Step 3: Re-read the information after confirming with other sources. Check the date it was written. Try to see it from another person’s point of view. Try not to let your own bias influence you.

Step 4: Share on a media platform of your choice and await the replies, comments, likes, retweets and so on.

All I need to do now is come up with an awesome infographic and change the words around until I have a very cool acronym.

Image courtesy of IFLA

P.s. I would like to leave the readers with a link to a very good book relating to this week’s topic – Media Manipulation – Trust Me I’m Lying