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Rejecting Fakes

UAlbany librarian offers solutions to fight back against disinformation in the digital world

 Trudi Jacobson, Head, Information Literacy Dept, University Libraries.

ALBANY, N.Y. (December 8, 2016) – Fake news is becoming a real problem.

Just this week, Edgar Welch, a 28-year-old father of two, was arrested for firing an assault-like AR-15 rifle in a Washington D.C. pizzeria. He claimed to be “self-investigating” an online conspiracy theory that wrongly linked the restaurant to a child sex ring. It was shared by thousands through social media.

Luckily, Welch surrendered peacefully, and no one was hurt. However, the shooting proved the power of fake news articles and their potential consequences.

In a recent article written for The Conversation, Thomas Mackey of SUNY Empire State College, along with UAlbany distinguished librarian Trudi Jacobson, offered their opinions on how we can better prepare society to differentiate what’s real and what’s not in the digital world.

The two argue that though Google and Facebook are taking measures to help readers identify fake news, their advances are not going to solve the actual problem. Instead, it’s the ability for individuals to empower themselves online. Also known as metaliteracy.

“Digital literacy supports the effective use of digital technologies, while metaliteracy emphasizes how we think about things,” Mackey and Jacobson said. “Metaliterate individuals learn to reflect on how they process information based on their feelings or beliefs.”

So how can our society become metaliterate?

Mackey and Jacobson said that education is the first step. Often, we are more inclined to fact check a news source only when it goes against our beliefs. It’s important for students to learn how to critically assess news and challenge their own way of thinking.

Second, we must feel a sense of self-responsibility on social media. Whether posting a tweet, blog, Facebook post or writing a response to others online, it’s our duty to be fair and accurate.

“Metaliterate individuals recognize there are ethical considerations involved when sharing information, such as the information must be accurate. But there is more. Metaliteracy asks that individuals understand on a mental and emotional level the potential impact of one’s participation,” Mackey and Jacobson said.

Interested in learning more? Read Mackey and Jacobson's full Conversation piece titled “How can we learn to reject fake news in the digital world?”

Mackey is a UAlbany alum and former Department of Information Studies faculty member. Additional information on Jacobson’s expertise can be found on her official website.

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