November 13, 2018

We will not be rid of fake news until we learn how to detect it


One media professor is taking our country’s reluctance to discern critical information to heart, and teaching students how to detect fake news in social media and more traditional media. 

For the Burlington Times-News, Jessica Williams writes on professor Julie Smith‘s recent visit to the local university in Elon, NC, Webster University.

Smith, a communications professor at the university, is also the author of “Master the Media: How Teaching Media Literacy Can Save Our Plugged-in World.” She told Williams that one of the reasons readers are getting worse at filtering out fake news and social media accounts is because of information overload. “Really, what this boils down to is a lack of critical thinking,” Smith said. “We’re so consumed with information that we really don’t filter any of it and we take it [at] face value.”

Also, Russia. We know plenty about Russian hackers and trolls meddling with American politics, thanks to our investigative author, journalist Seth Hettena whose findings are detailed in his book Trump/Russia.

But in her class, Smith offers college students simple rules to decipher who might be a lowly, alt-right scumbag, and who might be a Russian bot. “If there are grammatical issues, the account is posting more than 50 times per day and has a low number of followers but high amount of Retweets, it’s likely a Russian bot. These accounts also tweet dramatic and emotional information that caters to one side of the political spectrum.”





Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.