Today's News, Tomorrow's History: Fake News in the Digital Media Landscape

Posted by Monica Brady-Myerov on December 19, 2016

Today’s News, Tomorrow’s History is an ongoing series with Listenwise. This series connects Facing History’s themes with today’s current events using public radio to guide and facilitate discussions around the social issues of our time. We will take a look at the presidential election and how people trust news on social media.

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There has been an increase of inaccurate or false news on social media during this year’s presidential campaign and election. Since Donald Trump's election victory, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has come out twice to address the issue of fake news. A spokesperson said Facebook is not doing business with fake news apps—sites that promote false and inaccurate information, which can then go viral. Facebook sells ad space inside its news feed and says these outside parties are not allowed to use the ad network. However, stories make money for Facebook when they are clicked, if they happen to get posted. Google, another tech giant, said it's working on a policy to keep its ads off fake news sites.

The solution to “fake news” is complicated since it involves the issues of free speech, social media’s business model for advertisements, and determining who in these tech companies would be the ones to make judgments about questionable news sites.

In one research study it was found that more than 80 percent of middle schoolers believed that "sponsored content" was a real news story. How do students know which news stories to trust? There are ways to tell real news from fake news, but this needs to be taught. Students need practice in looking for the sources of news along with practice in reading like fact checkers.

Listen to hear how difficult it is to be informed and find news you can trust, if your source of news is social media.

Join the conversation: What are the challenges of finding reliable news stories on the internet? What role does the First Amendment have in news stories on social media? Whose responsibility is it to fact check content? In your opinion, is fake news a big problem?

Keep the conversation going with Facing History’s resources:  

  • Explore our unit, “Facing Ferguson: News Literacy in a Digital Age,” co-created with the News Literacy Project, to examine the role of journalism in a democratic society and how we can become responsible consumers and producers of news and information in the digital age.

  • Register for our January 2017 Facing Ferguson online workshop to learn how to create a safe and reflective space for dealing with difficult topics and how to determine bias, develop critical news literacy skills, and become informed civic participants in today’s complex information landscape.

  • Read this Facing Today blog post to learn how you can help students use news stories to understand different viewpoints.

  • Read this article about confronting confirmation bias written by Alan C. Miller, Founder and President of the News Literacy Project.

Explore more stories about social media and the presidential election from Listenwise:

  • Listen to Facebook Comments and the Presidential Election to learn about how social media has affected friendships and dialogue during the election.

  • Listen to this story about how to manage threatening statements on Facebook and this story about how a Facebook threat could result in an FBI investigation. Then discuss the role of free speech and when it may cross the line on social media.

  • Listen and debate whether social media affects your behavior.

Listenwise helps teachers use public radio stories in their classrooms. To find more public radio stories and lessons for your middle and high school ELA, social studies, and science classrooms you can sign up for a free Listenwise account!

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Topics: News, Journalism, Public Radio, Today's News Tomorrow's History, In the news, Facing Ferguson, Listenwise, news literacy

At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you're engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.


Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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