8 steps to spot “fake news”

Information might be “fake news” on Facebook and sometimes it might be an internet scam.

Last month I came across an interesting article on the internet. Perhaps you did too? It was about a study out of Princeton and New York University that was widely reported by various media sources. The study found that Facebook users over the age of 65 were the most likely to share “fake news” with their friends on the internet.

After I had a little chuckle, at the expense of my parents’ generation, I started thinking a lot about what “fake news” means for libraries. Specifically, what the role of the public library is in helping the public choose real information over “fake news.” And I believe the public library plays a crucial role.

When I first began my library career in 2010, there seemed to be a lot of anxiety around the internet and its impact on libraries. The common refrain was, “Why do we need libraries? We have the internet.” As a librarian, it’s obviously frustrating to hear that people feel your profession is obsolete. However, it’s true that librarians used to be Google before Google was around. But as the internet has changed the way we all do things, it hasn’t diminished how crucial the library is in helping people not only find information but finding the right information.

The internet might make it easier for people to find information quickly, but as the study, I mentioned above shows, not all information is equal and there’s a lot of misinformation out there. This is where libraries can help. One of the ways libraries do this is through digital literacy education—or in easy to understand terms—programs for kids, teens, and adults that teach you how to be critical about the information you access on the internet.

Sometimes the information might be “fake news” on Facebook and sometimes it might be an internet scam that can convince someone to send them money over the internet. Before coming to Creston I spent several years working at various branch libraries around Vancouver and one of the common things I helped people with was identifying the difference between regular email and spam, especially scams that asked people to share their banking information online.

And with more and more government services moving their content and operations online, it’s crucial that people know how to navigate through it all. The library can help.

Here in Creston we currently have User-Friendly support on Saturdays. You can drop in at the library, anytime between 10 am and 4 pm and our student pages will help you with any technology and internet related questions that you have. And if you’re not sure about something you’re seeing online during the week, our staff are happy to help you with your questions at any time. We will also be exploring ways to bring in more programs to help the Creston community find their way on the internet.

It can be hard to navigate through all the information available online. I remember it being much easier just a decade ago, when the internet still felt a bit like the wild west, to quickly spot the difference between trustworthy and nefarious internet content. And as more corners of the internet became corporatized and legislation remains slow to create legal guidelines, it can all feel a bit overwhelming.

So, please know, that your library is here to help you. We are information professionals and we are passionate about assisting you in finding what you need.

A few years ago, right around the time of the 2016 American Presidential Election, the International Federation of Library Associations (or IFLA) published a handy guide to helping people spot the difference between a credible news story and blatant propaganda – or “fake news”. I’ve included this in my column this week because I believe we all deserve to know how to navigate the digital world. I hope you find it helpful.

Upcoming library programs:

Wed & Thursdays at 3:30 pm – Coding with Robots for kids

Saturdays at 10am-4 pm -User-Friendly Tech Support

Saturday, Feb 9 at 2 pm – Our People Will Be Healed – documentary film matinee

Tuesday, Feb 26 at 3:30pm – North of the Sun film screening for teens.

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