Facebook and Newseum partnership tackles ‘fake news’

John Melendez

In a world with instant shares and retweets, it has never been easier for “fake news” to spread quickly.

A new online initiative centered on promoting media literacy and stopping that trend began last week. The initiative is a result of a partnership between Facebook and the Newseum, a museum in Washington, D.C., that focuses on the five freedoms of the First Amendment, particularly the press. NewseumED, the museum’s free online educational website, is leading the initiative.

Kathleen Tyner, an associate professor who specializes in media literacy and use of new media in learning spaces, said the term “fake news” is so broad it does not paint a clear picture of the problem.

“I have a problem with that term, ‘fake news,’” Tyner said. “(I think it’s) very trendy … I don’t think there’s a consensus about the definition of ‘fake news.’ Some people think it’s logical. Some people think it’s emotional and ideological.”

The initiative released two infographics titled “E.S.C.A.P.E. Junk News” and “Is This Story Share-Worthy?” The infographics were made to give students tips on evaluating news credibility and determining the value of sharing news stories through social media.

Tyner said the posters are a good way to start the conversation about media and information literacy. Tyner said she does not believe the initiative is meant to try and solve the problem, but rather to provide another tool to validate evidence presented to consumers in news stories.

“(Students) need to understand who produced (the news they read) and why,” Tyner said. “From a very early age, (students) should be going to WHOIS Lookup to look up who owns the server for a URL because basically URLs are real estate.”

WHOIS is an online system that allows users to find who registered a certain domain name or IP address.

Nursing freshman Angelica Ramirez said she has shared articles through social media that ended up being fake. Ramirez said she thinks the “fake news” problem is more ideological.

“Social media makes it seem a different way than what you think,” Ramirez said. “(Whether news is fake) usually just comes down to your opinion.”

Nutrition senior Abimbola Awobona said responsibility for stopping the issue falls on social media users who do not bother to fact-check.

“In social media, nobody really wants to fact-check what they post,” Awobona said. “It’s too hard.”