February 4th, 2021

DISCERN: A Library Proposal to Combat Disinformation

Contact me at eap54@rutgers.edu for the research accompanying this proposal.

Proposed Public Library Service:
DISCERN (Disinformation/Information: Critical Evaluation of Real News
Online as real-time community events available on Zoom or YouTube videos:
designed to draw a diverse cross-section of people.
Points included in DISCERN:
1. Brief history of "Fake News" as a concept, its origin in Nazi Germany.
2. Consider the source: a “friend” sends you a video, a post, or a link.
3. Are you reading/viewing content from a known news media source? Which one?
4. Opinion Spectrum and possible bias.
5. Author/authority: “Who created this content?" Expertise of content creator.\

GLOSSARY of information sources, terms, and concepts:

Bias is relative: read sources with which you disagree. Practice forming an argument, based upon evidence and data, to express your viewpoint. Avoid disparaging the other side; don’t judge people based upon their looks; avoid arguments based on emotion, abuse, or name-calling.

Fact checking sites:*

• FactCheck – A nonprofit, nonpartisan website from the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania primarily focused on misstatements made by public officials. Entries include documentation of sources and detailed explanations.

• Politifact – A Pulitzer Prize-winning website operated by the Tampa Bay Times with original statements from public figures, evaluations of the statements with supporting documentation and ratings: “Truth-O-Meter” ranges from “True” to “Pants on Fire.”

• Snopes – A nonpartisan website with a focus on debunking urban legends, online rumors and other questionable/unproven statements. Original documentation provided whenever available.

• Washington Post Factchecker – A fact-checking website created and managed by award-winning veteran journalist Glenn Kessler.

*(descriptions from Batchelor, 2017)

Audience: Can you determine the audience for which the content is intended?
Clickbait: definition. Some people run websites with untrue, junk “news” to make money from the advertising revenue. These sites peddle conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate.

C.R.A.A.P. test: currency relevance authority accuracy purpose (Meriam Library, CSU, Chico)

Deepfakes can look real. 1) Facebook fact-checker: UK Conservatives ran ads with altered BBC headline; statistics were distorted in favor of Nigel Farage of the UKIP (UK Independence Party). https://www.google.com/amp/s/mobile.reuters.com/article/amp/idUSKCN1VZ00Z 2) https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/dec/01/facebook-bans-tories-distorted-party-advert-with-laura-kuenssberg (The Guardian: Facebook bans Tories' ‘distorted’ party advert w/ Laura Kuenssberg)

Exercise: similar to the Stanford History Group exercise

Examples: Fukushima flowers, NRA post, Stanford History Group, The Denver Guardian, http://abcnews.com.co/ Google or Google Scholar! But fact-check your source. The first hit in a search can be the least accurate, if it is the most well-funded. A Google search for “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” once resulted in a website based on racist lies about Dr. King. Think: why would someone do this?

Omission: What is missing? Author’s name, date, data (evidence/sources) publication information. Is the content is sponsored by a business, social, cultural, or religious organization?

P.O.V.: What is the point of view of the content (article, video, post, cartoon, graphic)? Does the content appeal to emotions (fear) or impulses (hatred)? Has it been distorted? Are you sure?

Photographs: right-click on the photo for “image address.” This tells you something about the photograph’s origin. Is the URL very long? Is it from a legitimate website? (Norton check mark)

Twitter: is a check mark next to the name? Does it appear out of context in your Twitterfeed?

TED talks: seek out experts in the field and read what they have written or listen to TED talks. You may object that expert opinion is difficult to understand, but good speakers explain clearly.

Reference Desk: Library staff can recommend materials that are accessible and yet trustworthy.

Adjust the DISCERN info service for levels of age and education.
Provide “outreach to local organizations and at events, to partnering with businesses and schools” (Alvarez, 2016)

“To become critical consumers of media information, users should question the date of the information (or lack thereof), carefully examine the site’s URL, consider the language being used (e.g., language that is dramatic, inflammatory, or absolute), consider the plausibility of the information, and consider the reputation and leanings of the website providing the information (e.g., The Onion is a known satire site, […] even if the headlines and content seem plausible). Another question to consider is whether the information is reported elsewhere online (i.e., triangulating information).” (Cooke, 2017)

Ethos: These additional sources of professional ethics provide further considerations as to the content of information literacy training:

ALA (2005) Resolution on Disinformation, Media Manipulation and the Destruction of Public Information (2004-2005 ALA CD #64):
“Whereas inaccurate information, distortions of truth, deliberate deceptions, excessive limitations on access and the removal or destruction of information in the public domain are anathema to the ethics of librarianship and to the functioning of a healthy democracy…” ALA, The American Library Association’s “Core Values of Librarianship.”

• The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions “Beacons of the Information Society: The Alexandria Proclamation on Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning.”

• The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.

• Former President Barack Obama’s proclamation that October 2009 should be declared “National Information Literacy Month.”
(The last three sources are suggested in Lenker, 2016).

Selected References:

Batchelor, O. (2017). Getting out the truth: the role of libraries in fighting fake news. Reference Services Review, Vol. 45 No. 2, 2017, pp. 143-148. © Emerald Publishing Ltd 0090-7324. DOI 10.1108/RSR-03-2017-0006

Buschman, J. (2017). November 8, 2016: Core Values, Bad Faith, and Democracy. The Library Quarterly, 87(3), 277–286. https://doi.org/10.1086/692305 Cooke, N., (2017a). Post-truth, Truthiness, and Alternative Facts: Information Behavior and Critical Information Consumption for a New Age. Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, vol. 87, no. 3, pp. 211–221. 0024-2519/2017/8703-0003$10.00

Cooke, N. (2017b). Post Truth: Fake News and a New Era of Information Literacy. Webinar. https://youtu.be/7Wp4eZr0d7g Fallis, D. (2015). What Is Disinformation? Library Trends, Volume 63, No. 3, Winter 2015, pp. 401-426. JHU Press. https://doi.org/10.1353/lib.2015.0014. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (FLA) (2017) How to Spot Fake News [digital image]. https://www.ifla.org/files/assets/hq/topics/info-society/images/how_to_spot_fake_news.pdf (accessed 1 October 2017).

Lenker, M. (2016) Motivated reasoning, political information, and information literacy education. portal: Libraries and the Academy 16(3): 511–528.

Valenza, J., (2016). http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2016/11/26/truth-truthiness-triangulation-and-the-librarian-way-a-news-literacy-toolkit-for-a-post-truth-world/

Tags: Democracy, Disinformation, Fake news

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Comments (1)

Comments (1)

Hi Elizabeth:

Thanks for joining our conversation and posting such a comprehensive list!

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