I am happy to share with you my first piece to appear at Smithsonian.com on the influence of fake news stories on the 2016 presidential election and its implications for how we teach history. Like many of you I am troubled, though not surprised, by the inability of seemingly smart people to spot fake news or distinguish between reputable and problematic websites.
Having tracked the rise and spread of the black Confederate narrative across the Web has certainly given me insight into the various factors at work here. It’s not just that people don’t understand the history, but that they cannot spot structural problems with the website itself – problems that should steer a visitor away to begin with.
As I suggest in the piece, this is not rocket science. A healthy skepticism and a visitor armed with a few key questions about the legitimacy of a site will go far. Anything less is equivalent to walking up to a perfect stranger on the street for information and accepting as true whatever is shared.
Digital media or Web literacy needs to start early and needs to be integrated throughout the curriculum through college.