On what started as a rather miserable June day, Alex and I headed to Elephant & Castle to attend ‘this is not a fake conference’ at London South Bank University. The programme was packed and included a variety of speakers. Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump was mentioned by most. In this post I hope to provide a summary of the key ideas. More information can be found here.
Fake news is by no means a new phenomenon as highlighted by examples from throughout the ages. However, it is something that has very much come to the forefront recently, this is reflected in an increase in research and articles on the topic.
It is also something that won’t be stopped but we can arm ourselves and others with the tools required to guard against it. Educators have a role to play in this and librarians have a unique position here. We already teach critical approaches to information on the web. Fake news therefore provides us with an opportunity by having the academic component of evaluations skills plus relevance to the world today. Another role of librarians raised was helping academics with scholarly communication.
The speakers described a variety of approaches to fake news including workshops, library guides and Facebook Live. There were common components to each approach:
- Demonstration of filter bubble etc.
- Examples to identify as fake (or not)
- Building a checklist (the IFLA ‘how to spot fake news’ poster got almost as many mentions as Donald Trump)
A couple of ideas in particular caught my eye. University of Bedfordshire, as part of their workshop, provide students with some statistical data and then get different groups to use this same data to illustrate different points. This seemed like an excellent way to show how facts can be cherry picked for a particular agenda and the importance of going back to the original source. I also really liked the Instagram polls that University of Newcastle had done as part of their fake news promotion.
The importance of helping students develop the skills required for themselves hence creating a checklist in the workshop rather than simply providing one was a common theme. Also, one speaker spoke of ‘balanced scepticism’, emphasising how vital it is to show that there is good information out there too. I thought this was a really important point.
A couple of the speakers highlighted that these critical thinking skills are important when it comes to employability as well.
The following sites were mentioned as aids in the fight against fake news and would be worth exploring:
Behind the headlines: https://www.nhs.uk/news/
Google reverse image search
Sense about science: http://senseaboutscience.org/