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Media Literacy: How to Identify False or Misleading News Sources

Daniel Rehn

This week, Google and Facebook announced measures aimed at halting the spread of "fake news" on the internet.

Google says it’s working on a policy change that will prevent websites that misrepresent content from using its AdSense advertising network. Facebook updated its advertising policies, spelling out that its ban on deceptive and misleading content applies to fake news.

The move comes as Google, Facebook and Twitter face a backlash over the role they played in the presidential election, by allowing the spread of false and often malicious information that might have swayed voters.

Hear Ben Kieffer's interview with Melissa Zimdars - River to River

On this River to River interview, Ben Kieffer talks with Melissa Zimdars, a University of Iowa alumnus who now teaches at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts. She recently created a list of fake and satirical news sites that's gained a lot of attention due to the election controversy.

She says the best way to discern between real and fake news content is to actually read what you're sharing.

"If you're reading something and you're not sure, you can consider a few different things. One, is the news story attributed to a specific author? Google that author, Google the news sources, and read about what people are saying. If it's been reported anywhere, if it's a legitimate news source, there's likely a Wikipedia page with it," Zimdars says.

"You can also just consider things like whether the article uses all-caps frequently or really exaggerated language, like one political candidate 'destroying' another political candidate. Most legitimate and reliable news sources don't use that kind of language and don't frequently use all caps in their reporting."

Also on the show: Brianne Pfannenstiel of the Des Moines Register talks about a state representative's plan to introduce what he calls a “suck it up, buttercup” bill – legislation to stop what he sees as the coddling of students with taxpayer money; an update on what the latest research shows regarding the human health impacts of frac sand mining; Sarah Boden talks about protests in Cedar Rapids in response to a police shooting investigation; and an ISU researcher talks about how texting can be used as tool to help parents teach math at home.

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River