‘Fake News' in the Context of Information Literacy: A Canadian Case Study

‘Fake News' in the Context of Information Literacy: A Canadian Case Study

Nicole S. Delellis (University of Western Ontario, Canada) and Victoria L. Rubin (University of Western Ontario, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2543-2.ch004
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This chapter describes a study that interviewed 18 participants (8 professors, 6 librarians, and 4 department chairs) about their perceptions of ‘fake news' in the context of their educational roles in information literacy (IL) within a large Canadian university. Qualitative analysis of the interviews reveals a substantial overlap in these educators' perceptions of skills associated with IL and ‘fake news' detection. Librarians' IL role seems to be undervalued. Better communication among integral IL educator groups is recommended. Most study participants emphasized the need for incorporating segments dedicated to detecting ‘fake news' in IL curricula. Pro-active IL campaigns to prevent, detect, and deter the spread of various ‘fakes' in digital media and specialized mis-/disinformation awareness courses are among best practices that support critical thinking and information evaluation within the societal context. Two other interventions, complementary to IL as per Rubin's Disinformation and Misinformation Triangle, are suggested – detection automation technology and media regulation.
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The problems associated with information overload and citizens’ limited critical reasoning abilities have been raised since the invention of the printing press and remain to be a societal concern. To participate in society is to learn how to critically engage with societal discourse, to be able to evaluate discourse despite the overwhelming abundance of information. William Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1802) wrote

a multitude of causes, unknown to former times, are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor (p. 563).

In Wordsworth’s view, information overload at the time not only dulled the senses and produced a lethargy of the mind but resulted in a mental inactivity devoid of critical reasoning capacity for the masses. Wordsworth’s critique pointed to early perceived complications of the bombardment of advertisement and media. The critical ability to assess information is a skill that is lacking from innate human and thus needs active development.

Key Terms in this Chapter

ACRL Framework: 2015 publication from the Association of College and Research Libraries, that is a teaching framework for information literacy. It consists of six (6) frames, with a less rigid structured list of outcomes than the earlier 2000 Standards. This framework is a method that encourages an open dialogue between IL instructor and students about critical discussion of information.

Critical Thinking: The ability to user higher cognitive ability and reasoning to rationally think, decide upon, or act. It requires the ability to gather facts from the environment (for example through observation), and the ability to analyze and evaluate perceived facts to decide upon an appropriate action.

Rubin’s Disinformation and Misinformation Triangle: A conceptual model that predicts that the three causal factors of the ‘fake news’ epidemic – virulent pathogenic ‘fakes’, conducive online environments, and susceptible readers lacking IL skills – can be disrupted with three types of interventions – education, automation, and regulation.

ACRL Standards: Outdated teaching outcomes published by the Association of College and Research Libraries. Contains six (6) prescribed skills of an information literate individual that IL educators should teach to students. Critiqued for producing rigid structure on how to find specific information for a specific outcome rather than how to critically assess information.

Media Literacy: Like information literacy, but narrower in scope. Focus resides on critical assessment of facts or opinions founded through consumption of media (such as television, radio, podcasts, etc.).

Information Literacy: An attempt to teach individuals to be able to gather, synthesis, and critically assess information. Approaches to teaching methodology has transform information literacy conceptualization to view students as both consumers and active creators of information.

Fake News: Misleading or fabricated information that has a societal, political and or monetary gain for the individual spreading it. Not a new phenomenon, and connected to the concept of propaganda.

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