The circulation of fake news through social media in the 2016 presidential election has raised several concerns about online information.
Of course, there is nothing new about fake news as such – the satirical site “The Onion” has long done this. Fake news satire is part of “Saturday Night Live”‘s Weekend Update and “The Daily Show.”
In these cases, the framework of humor is clear and explicit. That, however, is not the case in social media, which has emerged as a real news source. Pew Research Center reports that Facebook is “the most popular social media platform” and that “a majority of U.S. adults – 62 percent – get news on social media.” When people read fake news on social media, they may be tricked into thinking they are reading real news.
Both Google and Facebook have promised to take measures to address the concerns of fake news masquerading as real news. A team of college students has already developed a browser plug-in called FiB to help readers identify on Facebook what is fake and what is real.
But these steps don’t go far enough to address fake news.
The question then is: Can we better prepare ourselves to challenge and reject fabrications that may easily circulate as untruthful texts and images in the online world?
As scholars of library and information science, we argue that in today’s complex world, traditional literacy, with its emphasis on reading and writing, and information literacy – the ability to search and retrieve information – are not enough.
What we need today is metaliteracy – an ability to make sense of the vast amounts of information in the connected world of social media.
Why digital literacy is not enough
Students today are consumers of the latest technology gadgets and social media platforms. However, they don’t always have a deep understanding of the information transmitted through these devices, or how to be creators of online content.