The Truth is Out There: #FactCheckFriday Taking Down Misinformation One “Fact” at a Time

“A cabal of doctors is hiding the cure for cancer, berries are more effective than vaccines, and eating instant noodles can kill you: These are some of the claims from the internet’s most viral fake health news in 2019.”

This is how an article by Brandy Zadrozny for NBC News began. The article, released in December 2019, discusses the prevalence of misinformation.

Through the library blog, I’ve previously discussed society’s misinformation woes and shared the Media Bias chart with you in my post titled, Bias-Free Since 2016: Using the Media Bias Chart to Share Unbiased News. A few of my colleagues have also used the blog as an opportunity to share tips and tricks for ensuring you’re receiving accurate information (I’m a personal fan of lateral reading – a technique shared by Emily Metcalf in her blog post,  Lateral Reading: It’s What the Cool Kids are Doing).

Sometimes, however, despite our best efforts we have trouble filtering out the accurate from the false. I emphasize “we” because I too have fallen victim to coming across a post through social media and getting “up in arms” about the content – only to later find that it was actually a misrepresentation of the truth.

Here’s a solid example: my personal social media pages were circulating that the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, declared that “’only’ .02% (about 14,700+) of school children would die when schools reopen for the fall.”

Naturally I was upset at the thought…or rather, I was horrified!! Could this really be true?!? Is that really what she stated?!?

For the record, the answer is no…but it took posting for #FactCheckFriday to figure this out.

What’s #FactCheckFriday you ask?

The Bell Library has recently shifted its social media #TGIFridayTrivia posts to #FactCheckFriday. The goal is to find widely circulating information that has caused a raised eyebrow or two and to determine whether or not it’s true.

In creating content for these fact-checking days, I decided to investigate the supposed DeVos statement. Lo and behold, I was a victim of misinformation. While DeVos has been a supporter of reopening, she did not dismissively state that “only” a few deaths would occur.

I have been known to speak with students, staff, faculty, friends, family, strangers – with masks and from a safe 6 foot distance – basically anyone who will listen, that the prevalence of misinformation is overwhelming and easy to fall prey to. Still, I have also passingly taken a statement found on social media as truth – it happens.

Which is why I’ve been loving #FactCheckFriday! Researching for these posts have forced me to more thoroughly practice what I preach. I’m finding misleading posts, headlines, articles, and verifying the information, then turning around and sharing the truth through the library’s social media accounts.

If you follow us on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram, keep a look-out for #FactCheckFridays. If you don’t follow us, now is as good a time as any to start!

Remember, the truth is out there, it’s just a matter of finding it. If you have a fact that you want to be checked, submit it here!

Keep aware, take note of your sources, and research thoroughly.

Here’s to the truth, Islanders!


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