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Strategies to Help Kids Identify Fake News

Recently released PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) study results revealed that only 14 percent of U.S. students were able to reliably distinguish between fact and opinion. PISA is an international assessment that measures 15-year-old students' reading, mathematics, and science literacy every three years. These findings are particularly alarming in these times when many rely on social media to get their news – a place where everyone has an opinion. In a commentary reaction to these results, Chris Link of the Global STEM Alliance at the New York Academy of Sciences shares strategies to help teachers and parents improve students' ability to identify information that is false or biased. One of the exercises he suggests is providing students with links to legitimate looking sites containing false information to see if they are deceived. He says, “experiences like these, where students are challenged to consider the validity of information and sort what’s real from what’s fake, would better prepare them not only to be savvier consumers of news, but also to someday digest contradictory information to make complicated decisions about their own health care, finances or civic engagement”.

Is Facial Recognition Fair to All Students?

Recent research has shown that facial recognition technology is more likely to misidentify African Americans and Asian Americans, a finding that is continuing to raise questions about using the technology in K-12 schools. In a blog post, Sarah St. Vincent, director of Cornell Tech's Computer Security Clinic, shares 10 questions school leaders and parents should ask before adopting the technology, including how accurate the system is, particularly for women and people of color.

2020 Campaigns Have Few Responses for Misinformation

Less than a year before the 2020 election, and false political information is moving furiously online. Avaaz, a global human rights organization, has reported that the top 100 false political stories were shared by Facebook users over 2.3 million times in the United States in the first 10 months of 2019. Still, few politicians (or their staff) are prepared to quickly notice and combat incorrect stories about them, according to dozens of campaign staff members and researchers who study online misinformation. Several of the researchers said they were surprised by how little outreach they had received from politicians. Campaigns and political parties say their hands are tied, because social sites such as Facebook and YouTube have few restrictions on what users can say or share, as long as they do not lie about who they are.

As a voter and a parent, what can you do? Review the basics on how to detect misinformation and share with your children. Misinformation hurts everyone by normalizing prejudices, and even justifying and encouraging violence.


Facebook and Instagram Ban Influencers From Promoting Guns and Vaping

Facebook and Instagram already ban ads for guns and e-cigarettes, but now they have announced that they will also be banning "branded content" (influencer posting) that promotes weapons, tobacco and vaping. Enforcement for the new rules should take effect in the "coming weeks," Facebook says. They are also working on tools to help creators honor the new policy, such as setting minimum age requirements on their content. This is the first time Instagram is limiting what influencers can pitch in their feeds, and it's considered overdue by some. Facebook and Instagram have both come under fire for letting social media stars advertise harmful products, including those who stars who are sometimes underage themselves.

Facebook Enlists Community Reviewers As Fact Checkers

Facebook is trying a new approach to fact checking by using “community reviewers”, a diverse group of contractors hired through partners like YouGov, to check potentially false reports. Facebook will use its machine learning process to identify misinformation in posts, as it does already. When content is tagged as potentially false, Facebook's system will then send the post on to the new team of community reviewers. The community reviewers will be prompted to check the post by conducting their own additional research, and if they find the post to be incorrect, they'll be able to send their findings and resources to Facebook's fact-checkers for their official assessment.

By enabling more people to provide input into the fact-checking process, Facebook's aim is to improve both the relative accuracy of its findings, and to lessen accusations that it is favoring one side of politics over another. Critics, however, say this new ‘diverse’ review system is just cover for their policy on not fact-checking political ads and should be brought up when discussing misinformation with your children.

Do We Create Our Own Misinformation?

In a world inundated with fake news, it's easy to cast blame on others for spreading misinformation. Now a study from Ohio State University gives credence to a notion that we create our own "alternative facts" to align with our biases. In this instance, the researchers showed that people misremembered accurate statistics when the facts were contrary to what they believed to be true.

Lateral Reading Helps Students Ferret Out Misinformation

Researchers at Stanford University are working with journalism groups to develop a news and Internet literacy curriculum designed to teach students how to sort fact from fiction. The free online curriculum, called Civic Online Reasoning, teaches skills including lateral reading, which professional fact-checkers use to evaluate the credibility of information sources. Lateral reading is a strategy for investigating who is behind an unfamiliar online source by opening a new browser tab to see what trusted websites say about the unknown source.

Twitter Offers More Ways to Get Control of Responses to Your Tweets

Annoyed by a response to one of your tweets? Twitter is rolling out a feature that enables users to hide replies. Twitter's Suzanne Xie says that during testing, users usually hid replies because they found them "irrelevant, off-topic or annoying" and also explained that the platform is exploring further ways to give users more control over conversations.

Twitter to Ban Political Ads Worldwide

Twitter will stop accepting political advertising globally, a policy that applies to messages related to a specific campaign and those that address a political issue, CEO Jack Dorsey says. The company will unveil details Nov. 15, and the ban will take effect Nov. 22. This is in contrast to Facebook’s decision to not fact-check claims made by politicians in ads placed on the platform.

Twitter has had some policies in place to keep politicians from making false statements on its platform, but has yet to use them. Earlier this summer, Twitter said that it would gray out tweets from public figures, including Trump, that violated its rules and even restrict users’ abilities to share them, but hasn’t implemented it on any tweets so far.

Facebook Says It is Not Fact Checking Political Ads: Some Ideas For What to Do

It has recently come out that Facebook is exempting political ads from its fact checking processes and rules, with a statement from CEO Mark Zuckerberg noting, "We don’t fact-check political ads. We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying. And if content is newsworthy, we also won’t take it down even if it would otherwise conflict with many of our standards."

His stance on stepping away from holding that power overlooks the fact that Facebook already has that kind of power for other ads, raising the question of why in regular ads, Facebook can be okay with using outside fact-checkers, and banning false claims outright, yet in political ads it can't do the same. It is an interesting topic to discuss with your children relating to misinformation online. Also keep in mind you can edit your Facebook Ad Preferences, and remove anything that you don't agree with or doesn't look right. You can also check out Facebook’s Ad Library, which now includes a new tracker of Facebook ad spending by major political candidates. It is a bit of an eye opener. Interesting enough, on the flip side, Twitter has banned all political ads.