Two words…. Information literacy
It is failing us and failing us bad.
There are people who believe that libraries and librarians are going by the waste side because of the internet and especially Google. I think this past election has shown us the exact opposite. Libraries and librarians are still very relevant because we educate the public on information literacy. Yes Google may bring you tons of information, but, we teach you how to find the right information. Being information literate will help us preserve our democracy from outside forces (Russia) who are trying to undermined it with the spread of misinformation from fake or exaggerated news. Plus it is frightening to think there may be people out there that solely rely on the internet for their medical advice.
In this growing digital environment a new set of skills needs to be learned and one of those is website evaluation. During the months leading up to the election I cannot tell you how many “click bait” articles proclaiming to be “news” flooded my “news feed.” Some of it being shared by people I care about. News that just reading the headline screamed BS and here people were hanging to its every bait-ridden word. I don’t think it is far fetched to believe the reports that part of Trumps rise was directly related to this explosion of fake new stories and their Russian origins. In fact it has been proven that many of these sites were directly linked to Russian propaganda peddlers and also to each other.
Recent studies used “Internet analytics tools to trace the origins of particular tweets and mapped the connections among social-media accounts that consistently delivered synchronized messages. Identifying website codes sometimes revealed common ownership. In other cases, exact phrases or sentences were echoed by sites and social-media accounts in rapid succession, signaling membership in connected networks controlled by a single entity.”
Another study conducted by a group of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds, found over 200 websites directly connected to Russian propaganda sites peddling the same theme over and over again to the viewing numbers of over 15 million Americans. It is like an interconnected web all coming from a singular source. You can read the report here. I read it last night. It was eye opening and now I can’t shut them.
One of the most interesting reads came from the article Trolling for Trump.
It outlined Russia’s overarching plan that goes beyond Trumps election. Russia wants to ultimately “diminish and tarnish American democracy.”
“Russia’s social media campaigns seek five complementary objectives to strengthen Russia’s position over Western democracies:
1. Undermine citizen confidence in democratic governance; Foment and exacerbate divisive political fractures;
2. Erode trust between citizens and elected officials and democratic institutions;
3. Popularize Russian policy agendas within foreign populations;
4. Create general distrust or confusion over information sources by blurring the lines between fact and fiction
In sum, these influence efforts weaken Russia’s enemies without the use of force. Russian social media propaganda pushes four general themes to advance Moscow’s influence objectives and connect with foreign populations they target.”
Whether or not you want to believe that Russia had direct involvement (even though evidence points to this as fact) with the hack, the alarm bell should be raised nonetheless. I am disturbed by the lack of concern over the security of this country’s information networks. The simple fact is any tampering at all should raise your alarms. This is serious and questions the integrity of any future elections. Hacking, tampering, and the spread of propaganda cannot be taken as business as usual. That is a sure fire way for a collapse of a democracy.
Back to information literacy.
My therapist the other day told me that this is different back then was that information didn’t widely spread fast… Well of course not! It is much worse now. Even though there are stark direct comparisons to Hitler and the Cold War. The biggest difference is that nowadays the internet allows for the spread of propaganda like a fire through a dry brush. This makes this situation scary and important for librarians to fight against the spread of this propaganda. All you need is something to go viral and the whole world sees it in minutes.
For instance, the story about how a Trump protester was paid 3,500 bucks to protest at a Donald Trump rally in Arizona. He supposedly answered a Craigslist ad by a group looking for actors for political events. It was later revealed that this news story was generated by one of the fake news click bait sites. The author of the hoax was Paul Horner, who claims to post “fake news on a variety of websites” to make money. He generates income off ad revenue from Google. Yet the Trump campaign pushed this forward by stating numerous of times how protesters are paid to be at his rally’s. I see where he gets his information from!
We need to be diligent in stopping the spread of false information. There is a dependable way to avoid the faded lines of true and false. Don’t be easily fooled and learn to evaluate your information. Don’t just settle for information that easily fits into the narrative of your brain. Don’t just believe what you want to believe and seek out proof that solidifies it that has no solid footing. It is disturbing and unnerving how much news people believe from non reputable sites without checking the facts first. It is like people cannot be bothered with doing the leg work or they take catchy headlines at face value.
It is not real and neither is anything else that was ever published by departed.co
Some examples of fake news headlines
Donald Trump won the popular vote.
The Clinton Foundation bought $137 million worth of illegal arms and ammunition.
An FBI agent associated with Hillary Clinton’s email leaks was found dead in a murder-suicide.
The Pope endorsed Trump.
There is an increase in the dissemination of information via the web but we must remember that not all of it is evaluated for accuracy before it is published.
Why? Because sites don’t fact check. Take this quote from a CNET article
Most media companies have some rules on fact checking. CNET’s reporters and reviewers must verify information they’re writing and then back that up by linking to original source material like company press releases, videos and websites.
But there are plenty of other sites that simply run content collected from across the internet and argue they don’t need to check because they didn’t write it. They’re just content distributors. They’re just aggregators.
Back in the day when I was in that relationship I was in desperate need for money. One of the ways I tried to generate money was working for a website called Associated Content. I wrote articles of lists such as… top 10 Valentine’s Day gifts…. or Best ballparks… stuff like that. It didn’t generate much but the more successful people were the ones that generated content that was loaded up with keywords from televisions shows, awards ceremonies, and the Leno/Conan feud… yea this was that long ago. This site was eventually taken over by Yahoo and I no longer wrote articles.
Anyone can write an article but it is up to us to make sure what we read is accurate. We can no longer depend on news sources to do it for us… yes even sometimes the reputable ones.
I refuse to feel bad for not wanting to fall in line and march like a “proper American” should in fear of “lose my citizenship and be jailed.”
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
If you can be stripped of your citizenship and jailed for breaking the first amendment in Trumps America then that should scare you. His casual way of saying it through a tweet should also scare you. This is not the behavior of a man who has everyone best interests in mind.
I am tired of being looked at with ten heads because I don’t believe the crap I am being fed by our future government. I will forever and ever read the words that live in that plane of between the lines. I will always look for the information that is not visible through the words the government chose to use. I will never take what they say at face value because it is laced in a history of hatred. This is not my culture.
I know my thoughts be seem like they are all over the place but that is because I am trying to align them. I am trying to solidify my stance and my place in this fight going forward. I will come out with a more clear understanding about who I am and what I want to achieve. The important first step for me is to get the words out of my head and onto whatever my writing outlet is at the moment. There is no greater lie you tell yourself when you say “I’ll write it down later.” I like to let my thoughts flow out as a draft so I can examine them better and tidy it up where necessary as I do any research paper. I will become more organized
I will say this… Information literacy and helping people identify what is real and what is fake is part of the job of libraries and librarians. We are not doing it because we are “smarty pants” and trying to make people feel stupid because they believed a lie. It is our JOB. Just like it is for a teacher to teach, a lawyer to defend, a preacher to preach, and a firefighter to put out the flames. It is a job of librarians to disseminate information.
It is what we get trained to do what we go through our Masters of Library Science programs. It is not about one person being smarter than another. It is about me deciding to stand out on the front lines of the war against information literacy. That is the mantel I took when I signed up for library school and I have never felt the pull so strong to take action as I do now.