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In this essay, the authors offer a context for discussions about fake news, democracy, and considerations for media literacy education. Drawing on media ecology and critical media studies, they highlight the longer history of fake news and how this concept cannot be separated from the media technologies in which cultures grow. They discuss current iterations of this phenomenon alongside the effects of social media and offer a preview of the special issue.
L. Mason, D. Krutka & J. Stoddard | Journal of Media Literacy Education 2018 10(2), 1 - 10
Available online at
The National Association for Media Literacy Education’s
Journal of Media Literacy Education 10 (2), 1 - 10
Media Literacy, Democracy, and the Challenge of Fake News
Lance E. Mason
Indiana University Kokomo
Daniel G. Krutka
University of North Texas
Jeremy Stoddard
College of William & Mary
In this essay, the authors offer a context for discussions about fake news, democracy, and considerations for
media literacy education. Drawing on media ecology and critical media studies, they highlight the longer
history of fake news and how this concept cannot be separated from the media technologies in which
cultures grow. They discuss current iterations of this phenomenon alongside the effects of social media and
offer a preview of the contents of this special issue on media literacy, democracy, and the challenge of fake
Keywords: media literacy, fake news, media ecology, social media
Democracies rely on informed citizens. The media forms from which citizens learn
about political happenings have shifted and mingled over time from pamphlets and
newspapers to radio and television to cable news and social media. Our media
environment has never been so complex. While media literacy advocates and educators
have sought to organize curriculum which might prepare citizens to be informed for
democratic participation (Bulger & Davison, 2018; Stoddard, 2014, Mason & Metzger,
2012), many schools have been slow to implement such curriculum. While these issues
were not new, the candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump have pushed them into the
foreground. He regularly uses Twitter to engage in partisan politics, threaten nuclear war,
malign political opponents, dehumanize groups of people, and label mainstream media
outlets as fake news. While politicians and citizens carelessly use the term, educators must
wrestle with complex issues around not only information literacy, but also young people’s
understanding of the wider effects of media forms on their knowledge and beliefs.
Our aim in this introduction is to consider the concept of fake news for media
literacy and democracy more broadly, while offering a framing and context for the
L. Mason, D. Krutka & J. Stoddard | Journal of Media Literacy Education 2018 10(2), 1 - 10
research articles and essays in this special issue. In recent times, the term fake news has
been used to describe fictitious articles that spread easily among social media sites like
Facebook. In his first presidential press conference, Donald Trump arguably weaponized
the term by declaring media outlets like CNN as fake news. As editors of the special issue,
we want to take this opportunity to explore both the reasons for its ascent and how it
contributes to understanding the changing media landscape that has been deeply
influenced by new media technologies, and consider what this means for educators
seeking to address media literacy in light of the challenges presented by fake news.
In this introduction, we will consider fake news from perspectives not always
included in the current debate for how to respond as educators, which includes strategies
for identifying fake news (e.g., news literacy) and analyzing information media as texts
(e.g., media literacy). We go beyond these models by utilizing more critical perspectives
and through examining media engagement from the conceptual grounding of media
ecology. Media ecologists study media as environments that structure human interaction.
Neil Postman (2000) explains:
A medium is a technology within which a culture grows; that is to say, it gives
form to a culture’s politics, social organization, and habitual ways of thinking.
Beginning with that idea, we invoked still another biological metaphor, that of
ecology….We put the word “media” in front of the word “ecology” to suggest that
we were not simply interested in media, but in the ways in which the interaction
between media and human beings gives a culture its character and, one might say,
helps a culture to maintain symbolic balance. (pp. 10-11)
Media ecologists study how media forms influence personal actions, interpersonal
engagement, and broader societal changes. This places an emphasis on considering how
new media technologies create new possibilities for social and political engagement, while
affecting existing media dynamics in both positive and negative ways. Our analysis will
also employ Herman and Chomsky’s (1998/2002) critical analysis of media, which
identifies the power interests involved in locating, crafting, and disseminating media
messages as a key factor in understanding why certain ideas and messages are given heavy
attention by the media, while others are ignored. Together, these perspectives provide the
grounding for understanding the rise of fake news as a concept and how it limits or
promotes understanding of the changing dynamics between media and democracy, while
also considering how media literacy education might respond to these changes.
In the Cambridge English Dictionary (n. d.), fake news is defined as “false stories
that appear to be news, spread on the Internet or using other media, usually created to
influence political views or as a joke.” However, media scholar Brian McNair (2018)
offers another definition: “Intentional disinformation (invention or falsification of known
facts) for political and/or commercial purposes, presented as real news” (p. 38). Both
definitions identify intention as part of what distinguishes fake news from other long-
standing media concerns such as journalistic or editorial errors. These two definitions
usefully encapsulate the concept, though the growing concern with the power to influence
ideas through mediated communication can be more robustly understood by putting the
term in its historical context and subsequently exploring the changing media landscape.
Further, the term fake news has been used effectively by President Trump and other
L. Mason, D. Krutka & J. Stoddard | Journal of Media Literacy Education 2018 10(2), 1 - 10
members of his administration to attempt to delegitimize journalists and any journalism
outlet that publishes stories they disagree with or that are critical of them. This use of the
term has potential long term effects on how the public view or trust journalists and news
outlets and is historically grounded in authoritarian regimes that want direct lines of
communication to the public and their supporters in particular (Levi, 2017).
The term fake news is far from a new idea. It appears to have emerged in the late
19th century, although similar terms such as false news have been around since the 16th
century (Merriam-Webster, n.d.), and the ability for news to distort public opinion for
political or pecuniary ends has long been understood. In the late 19th century, yellow
journalism was a term used to describe exaggerated or outright fabricated stories and
like today’s fake news was connected to profit motives by news organizations. Yellow
journalism has been blamed for stoking the fervor that led to the Spanish-American War
and was arguably the forerunner of what became tabloid journalism. While concerns with
yellow journalism faded during the progressive era, concerns of media manipulation
arguably reached an apex in the 1920s with the publication of Walter Lippmann’s (1922)
Public Opinion. Lippmann, drawing on his experiences writing for the War Department
and the State Department during World War I, was shaken at how easily the public had
been manipulated into supporting a war it initially opposed. Since that time, scholars and
public intellectuals have chronicled the power of media to mold mass opinion in support
of various political agendas.
New mass media technologies have always presented novel opportunities for those
in positions of power to influence citizens. Hitler used the intimate, one-way
communication of the radio to rally German citizens behind his nationalistic, imperial
agenda. Similarly, Franklin D. Roosevelt hosted radio-based “fireside chats” to convince
Depression-weary American citizens to support New Deal reforms. Radio also provided a
new avenue for advertisers, who leveraged the new technology to reach massive audiences
simultaneously, which helped to increase the role of consumerism in American culture.
The proliferation of the television introduced new possibilities for persuasion that
were capitalized on by both advertisers and politicians. Businesses were now able to add
moving visuals to their sales pitches. Over time, politicians began to take advantage of the
multi-sensory features of television to create favorable sense-impressions while
minimizing substantive policy stances that might offend potential voters. Meanwhile, the
mass nature of television news limited perspectives and variety. It also facilitated what
Daniel Boorstin (1961) called pseudo-events such as press conferences, photo
opportunities, and other staged events that are planned specifically to be covered by the
Although media manipulation is an old story, the term fake news has not been a
key term in media discourse until recently. Concerns about this concept can be understood
within the context of the emergence of new technologies intersecting with current
sociopolitical and economic dynamics. For decades in the U.S. and Europe, promoters of
neoliberal corporate capitalism have rejected any notion of the public or common good,
which led to lax enforcement of the public interest doctrine for mass media established by
the Communications Act of 1934. This doctrine was ultimately abandoned in the mid
L. Mason, D. Krutka & J. Stoddard | Journal of Media Literacy Education 2018 10(2), 1 - 10
1980s. With the lack of regulatory enforcement, media companies began operating under
an overt profit motive. Cable news and talk radio began to segment news audiences into
ideological camps. An emphasis on profits has decimated local news coverage, while
leading to such things as canned news, or pre-packaged news segments designed for mass
dissemination among local affiliate new stations. This also presented new opportunities
for political manipulation. In one documented example, the Bush administration produced
canned news stories promoting several of their policy goals, including supporting the
invasion of Iraq (see Barstow & Stein, 2005). Such stories were designed to appear as
objective news coverage and were shown on local news stations as regular segments, but
they were designed by Bush administration officials with the aim of bolstering specific
policy positions. Similarly, the Sinclair Broadcast Group requires local news stations
across the country to air right-leaning “must run” segments, including “Terrorism Alert
Desk” stories that serve to stoke fear and serve political aims (Ember, 2017). The Trump
Administration has also produced short videos where he describes a current initiative,
meeting, or policy made to look like he is being interviewed - with the goal of promoting
his agenda. These videos are released by the White House and then often shared with or
without comment on cable news and through social media - an example of what is referred
to as free media coverage or earned media.
The emergence of the Internet and social media have dramatically altered media
coverage and perception, and understanding contemporary concerns about fake news
require considering the novel social dynamics introduced by new media technologies. In
2017, two-thirds of Americans reported receiving at least some of their news via social
media and this percentage rises to three-fourths on the platform where President Trump
often posts: Twitter (Shearer and Gottfried, 2017). Social media has been taken up for
various political purposes. Platforms have been effectively utilized by marginalized
groups seeking freedom or justice; perniciously by totalitarian groups aiming to censor,
misinform, or distract; and for different purposes by citizens connecting with fellow
activists or disconnecting from those with different views (Tufekci, 2017). Moreover,
these new media technologies both increase the volume of news while allowing niche
marketing on an unprecedented scale, often presenting ideologically bifurcated readers
and viewers with entirely different universes of discourse, which has fueled political
While social media companies capture public attention, newspapers have
experienced shrinking add revenue due to pressures from diminished sales because of
competition from the Internet. Many agencies have either closed or contracted, which has
led to diminished local news coverage and less in-depth reporting. It has also increased the
likelihood of reporting factual errors or passing along public relations material as news
without thoroughly vetting it for bias or inaccuracies. Newspapers increasingly depend on
Internet ad revenue, leading to heightened pressure for headlines or stories that are
hyperbolic or sensationalistic. Such stories are more likely to go viral, generate clicks, and
thus contribute to the company’s bottom line.
Media dynamics surrounding the emergence of the Internet and social media have
also heightened the impact of media manipulation. For example, in his book Trust Me, I’m
L. Mason, D. Krutka & J. Stoddard | Journal of Media Literacy Education 2018 10(2), 1 - 10
Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, Ryan Holiday (2012) explains how he
exploits the new media environment to create buzz around products for his various clients.
In a process he calls trading up the chain, Holiday explains how he plants a story with a
small blog with low reporting standards, which becomes the source for a larger, more
reputable blog, which subsequently may get picked up for coverage by mainstream
outlets. One may question why major news organizations would cover unverified
information from a blog. Holiday explains that news outlets, in their desperation for
readers and clicks, are now more likely to practice what he calls “iterative journalism” (p.
167), which is repeating unverified stories from less reputable sources under the pretense
that the story is still in process and the facts are incomplete. Yet this is part of the
manipulation. Reporters often know the stories are bogus so they rarely investigate further
and instead content themselves with the temporary increase in clicks. Moreover, media
aggregators seeking attention will pull quotes from informal conversations on audio
podcasts or radio shows and then highlight and frame these quotes as news with neither
the context of the conversation nor consideration of the difference between conversation
and written forms.
Moreover, astroturfing is a phenomenon in which entire grassroots groups are
manufactured in order to give the pretense of popular support for an issue or cause.
Common activities include creating commercials or hiring actors to protest either for or
against some organization or legislation, the latter intended to garner news coverage,
YouTube clicks, and shares through social media. These techniques among others
leverage the potential of social media users to spread stories and generate buzz, while
heightening the public’s suspicion of news coverage in general. Beyond commercial
ambitions, authoritarian leaders have utilized these same strategies to mislead, confuse, or
exhaust citizens from engaging with social issues (Tufekci, 2017).
McNair (2018) asserts that fake news “is a discourse about journalistic bias as
much as it is about the fabrication of facts; an attempt to subvert the legitimacy of an
information source who claims to be ‘objective’ but is, in the eye of the accuser, biased
against their side of a particular issue” (p. 25). Media factions now expend a great deal of
energy pointing out the bias and factual errors of the other side. This performs a useful
watchdog function, although in an already segmented media environment, it also
contributes to political polarization while eroding public trust in the media, which
according to Gallup (2016), has been steadily falling for the past 40 years. Corrections or
refutations are also now less likely to penetrate deeply into public consciousness partly
because of ideological segmentation (meaning that those who would most likely be
enlightened by the information are least likely to receive it), but also because of the
volume of information now available to consumers, which tends to overwhelm any sense
of coherency that would connect one story to subsequent ones. Self-selection of media
sources and motivated reasoning, or the selection of evidence from news to support
existing beliefs and rejecting information that may counter one’s beliefs further
exacerbates the issue of fake news (Kahne & Bowyer, 2017). The irony is that within the
relatively open media environment of the Internet, media distortions and lies are often
exposed by alternative media and other groups, yet this only adds to the public perception
that we live in a “post-truth” era dominated by fake news.
Mainstream news organizations also suffered a major blow to credibility during the
U.S. presidential election of 2016 when Wikileaks revealed that many reporters from
L. Mason, D. Krutka & J. Stoddard | Journal of Media Literacy Education 2018 10(2), 1 - 10
mainstream news agencies were working with the Clinton campaign to ensure her victory
over Democrat primary opponent Bernie Sanders. News coverage of the contest often
contained only the slightest pretense of neutrality. In one example of slanted coverage, a
review of approximately 200 editorials and op-eds in the Washington Post from January to
June 2016 found 5 negative stories for every positive one on Sanders. By comparison,
stories on Clinton were split about half positive, half negative (see Frank, 2018).
Wikileaks also revealed that the Clinton campaign was working with their allies in
the media to bolster what they perceived as the most vulnerable Republican candidates:
Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump (Debenedetti, 2016). When Trump won the
Republican nomination for president, the press quickly turned on him and showed blatant
favoritism for Clinton. This may have created a backlash from some voters, though it
certainly provided the rhetorical space for Trump to take an oppositional stance to the
media and label them as fake news, at least in a way that was convincing to his staunchest
supporters, who were already disgruntled with the media coverage of Trump during the
election season. This is not meant to provide a justification for Trump’s attacks on the
media. Rather, it is to assert that understanding our current media environment requires
considering how mainstream media has lost credibility with many citizens for reasons that
must be confronted if media is to serve its ideal role as informer of citizens and watchdog
of the powerful.
Within these media and social contexts, the increased reliance and role of citizens
to encounter and spread news through social media presents new challenges for
democracy and media literacy. Social media companies like Facebook are designed to
induce habit-forming use with notifications and algorithms that offer decontextualized
fragments of information (similar to the telegraph) that make knowing of things more
important than knowing deeply about them (Vaidhyanathan, 2018). Furthermore, Siva
Vaidhyanathan (2018) describes a cryptopticon whereby these companies serveil citizens
through the collection of massive amounts of data which is then sold off, stolen, or used
for marketing purposes to profile individuals in unprecedented ways. Users tend to accept
this invisible surveillance for convenience, efficiency, or security without considering
threats to privacy and democracy. As we have discussed, social media has allowed for
marginalized voices to raise the profile of social issues (e.g., #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo,
#TimesUp) or even organize activist activities on the ground (e.g., #TahrirNeeds,
@TahrirSupplies). Yet, social media platforms pose significant challenges as our spaces
for news consumption and public discourse are increasingly controlled by private
corporations who desire markets over democracy.
Public trust in media has declined roughly in step with a distrust of politicians and
a general diminishing faith in public institutions throughout the neoliberal era. However,
these events should also be understood within the context of falling incomes and
decreased future prospects for large portions of the U.S. population. The decline in trust of
media is connected to the broader waning support for public institutions, all of which rests
of the experiences of citizens whose lives have become more difficult over the preceding
period even as media tells them that the economy is doing well and that the nation is
L. Mason, D. Krutka & J. Stoddard | Journal of Media Literacy Education 2018 10(2), 1 - 10
prospering. In distressing times, ideological appeals tend to hold greater sway over the
population, particularly when news coverage does not line up with their lived experiences.
The above challenges to liberal democracy presented by new media dynamics has
resulted in calls for rethinking the role of media literacy (Mason & Metzger, 2012;
Mihailidis, 2018; Stoddard, 2014), educational social media activities (Krutka, 2017), and
civic online reasoning (McGrew, Breakstone, Ortega, Smith, & Wineburg, 2018) in
education. Media literacy can be broadly defined as the “active inquiry and critical
thinking about the messages we receive and create,” (National Association for Media
Literacy Education, 2007) and media literacy efforts have resulted in both successes and
failures (Bulger & Davison, 2018). As we do here, Bulger and Davison argue that
effective media literacy education requires understanding the media environment in
addition to improving cross-disciplinary collaboration; leveraging the current crisis to
consolidate stakeholders; prioritizing approaches and programs with evidence of success;
and develop action-oriented curricula that challenges systemic problems created by media,
including social media; corporations in addition to teaching individuals to interpret media
messages. Additional questions remain. Should fake news become more of a central focus
of media literacy education, or do these challenges suggest that a more fundamental
reframing of media education is necessary that puts media literacy at the forefront of 21st
century education?
If fake news is simply treated as an add-on to an existing media literacy
curriculum, teachers will merely create exercises that will help students determine whether
a particular story can be considered fake or not. While this would be useful, it does not
begin to address the reasons why the phenomenon of fake news has arisen within the
culture in recent years. To examine this, media literacy would need to become a central
part of school curriculum. A deep understanding of the history of media in the United
States would need to be explored by students. The intricacies of private enterprise and
public interests surrounding media would need to become focal questions for student
deliberation. Contemporary media dynamics would also need to be examined and such
inquiries could begin by having students examine their own media use and how it shapes
their worldview. The public and students alike would also need to reflect on their own role
in propagating fake news through their own media-seeking habits and through the ways in
which they share news within their social networks (see Middaugh’s article in this issue).
Some questions for the broader society given the challenges of fake news: Should
social media be more tightly regulated? Should the public demand that journalism once
again operate in the public interest? How can democracy be sustained and renewed in light
of such challenges, and is education even capable of offering an adequate defense for new
media environments? What role does media education play within civics and democratic
education? These questions and more should arguably become part of the exploration that
must be grappled with by both media literacy advocates and their students given the
challenges surrounding fake news.
While answers to many of these questions will require ongoing inquiry, the authors
of the special issue begin to take up several of these matters in the studies that follow. In
the essay, “Both Facts and Feelings: Emotion and News Literacy,” Susan Currie Sivek
L. Mason, D. Krutka & J. Stoddard | Journal of Media Literacy Education 2018 10(2), 1 - 10
considers the role of emotional manipulation in fake news within the context of social
media. The dynamics of social media, which are organized around retaining the attention
of users, have bolstered the influence of fake news. Sivek offers metacognitive strategies
that could potentially make students more mindful consumers of news and social media.
Ellen Middaugh, in “Civic Media Literacy in a Transmedia World,” provides empirical
evidence focused on the challenges of promoting these kinds of metacognitive thinking
and the role that emotion plays in how young people engage with media as consumers and
circulators. She explores how young people engage with information across media
through the use of an Issue Advocacy Task and pays particular attention to the social and
emotional aspects of these engagements in how students analyze these media and consider
their practices in sharing information within participatory networks.
The concern with newly emerging forms of manipulation also fuels the study
“Fake or Visual Trickery? Understanding the Quantitative Visual Rhetoric in the News,”
by Rohit Mehta and Lynette DeAun Guzman, who examine a particular form of visual
persuasion in news stories they call “quantitative visual rhetoric.” The prevalence of
screen news increases the need for media educators to consider how visual aids are used
by media organizations in conjunction with text to subtly craft message interpretation. The
authors evaluate several key examples and explore their implications for media literacy
education. While students’ understanding of what they engage with on screen is vital,
James Cohen also makes the case for a better understanding of what happens behind the
scenes and behind the screens, namely the impact of algorithms on our media engagement
and ensuing understandings. In “Exploring Echo-Systems,” he makes the case for
developing an understanding of the role of algorithms within media ecosystems as a core
understanding of media literacy for informed citizenship.
Exploring the consequences for practice is a focus of research by James Damico,
Mark Baildon, and Alexandra Panos, whose article titled “Media Literacy and Climate
Change in a Post-Truth Society,” examines pre-service teachers’ interpretations of media
arguments regarding climate change. While virtually all climate scientists acknowledge
the phenomenon and threat of climate change, there is still a debate among the public
about whether climate change is real. This dynamic makes the topic pertinent for
considering within the context of fake news. The study examines how pre-service teachers
make sense of information that either supports or refutes the existence of climate change,
and how media literacy must address both misunderstandings and ingrained ideologies as
part of its broader curriculum.
While it is easy to make calls for more media literacy education, implementation
within current educational contexts is more challenging. Mardi Schmeichel and her
colleagues at the University of Georgia seek to enhance media literacy education for social
studies teacher candidates, but found that teacher candidates struggled with these new
media literacy concepts of which they had little knowledge or experience. Moreover, the
cultures of school proved another barrier as the lack of presence, requirements, or support
deterred teacher candidates from engaging in media literacy work for our democracy. A
different approach is explored in the work of Renee Hobbs, Christian Seyferth-Zapf, and
Silke Grafe titled “Using Virtual Exchange to Advance Media Literacy Competencies
through Analysis of Contemporary Propaganda.” Their case study of practice describes
their collaborative virtual exchange project where teacher education students in Germany
L. Mason, D. Krutka & J. Stoddard | Journal of Media Literacy Education 2018 10(2), 1 - 10
and media students in the US learned collaboratively about modern propaganda and the
challenges it presents for contemporary media literacy education.
Concerns about media literacy and fake news also expand beyond K-12 education
into adult contexts. In their evaluation study of the Ukrainian public media education
project, Learn to Discern (L2D), Erin Murrock, Joy Amulya, Mehri Druckman, and
Tetiana Liubyva found limited effects on the news literacy skills and beliefs in the adults
who had participated in the project. They found that available news sources and motivated
reasoning seemed to negate some of the news literacy concepts and skills at the heart of
the L2D program. These results present further challenges to media literacy educators as
they consider how to best craft a curriculum that can help students become discerning
consumers and creators of media moving forward.
We hope this special issue inspires educators and scholars alike to take up the
challenges that fake news and the associated media environment present for our
democratic structures and for participation. While these challenges are not entirely new,
they are pressing, complex, and interconnected. We must all consider how media literacy
might help prepare citizens for democratic participation within environments that feature
increasingly complex and subtle forms of manipulation.
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Mihailidis, P. (2018). Fake news: Is media literacy a solution? Retrieved on July 12, 2018
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... Selfish intentions of people and politicians caused fake news diffusion. Political fame was a major cause behind the spread of fake news (Mason et al., 2018;Leeder, 2019;Allen et al., 2020). Figure 2 offers a clustered illustration of the key determinants of causing fake news diffusion on social media platforms: ...
... Media literacy education is not common. The validity of the published news is not checked carefully (Mason et al., 2018;Leeder, 2019;Allen et al., 2020). Table 4 provides a clustered glimpse of the key challenges to controlling the spread of fake news cancer. ...
Full-text available
Purpose This paper aims to explore the determinants causing fake information proliferation on social media platforms and the challenges to control the diffusion of fake news phenomena. Design/methodology/approach The authors applied the systematic review methodology to conduct a synthetic analysis of 37 articles published in peer-reviewed journals retrieved from 13 scholarly databases. Findings The findings of the study displayed that dissatisfaction, behavior modifications, trending practices to viral fake stories, natural inclination toward negativity and political purposes were the key determinants that led individuals to believe in fake news shared on digital media. The study also identified challenges being faced by people to control the spread of fake news on social networking websites. Key challenges included individual autonomy, the fast-paced social media ecosystem, fake accounts on social media, cutting-edge technologies, disparities and lack of media literacy. Originality/value The study has theoretical contributions through valuable addition to the body of existing literature and practical implications for policymakers to construct such policies that might prove successful antidote to stop the fake news cancer spreading everywhere via digital media. The study has also offered a framework to stop the diffusion of fake news.
... In the context of intensifying disinformation and fake news circulation in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, digital literacy has played an important role in addressing this global issue (Mason et al., 2018). Moreover, there is also an emergent connection between digital literacy and political opinions in an era where political communication and international relations debates have moved into the digital arena (Pérez-Escoda & Freire, 2023). ...
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The over-exposure to information facilitated by the hybrid media system and social networks is a key factor contributing to the increasing polarization of public opinion on major political issues. The European integration project is one of the major political processes affected by information manipulation and disinformation. In this regard, social networks have become powerful tools for nurturing news siloes or “echo chambers,” influencing people’s perceptions of important political issues in a manner that could have a destabilizing effect on democratic processes and institutions. In this context, the role of media discourses and their circulation among networked publics has become particularly relevant, leading audiences to adopt different views supporting or rejecting the European project. This thematic issue features a range of articles considering how the Europeanization process is impacted by discourses circulating in the hybrid media system or threatened by the destructive dynamics of disinformation and polarization.
The proliferation of online disinformation has become of major societal concern. Because of online programmatic algorithms, brands may find their ads running on disinformation websites alongside disinformation. In this experimental study (N = 617), we investigate people’s brand-related and news-related responses in this context. Results show that when an advertised brand is displayed on the same webpage as a disinformation article, brand attitude and brand trust are negatively affected; this effect is even more pronounced when the brand is thematically congruent with the disinformation article. This suggests that brands (especially congruent ones) might be contaminated by disinformation. In addition, presenting an ad alongside a disinformation article increases the credibility of the article, as well as people’s level of agreement with the article’s content. This seems to suggest that advertising can lend validity to disinformation and amplify its (harmful) effects. These results have important and timely managerial and societal implications.
The storming of the US Capitol on January 6th, 2021 shocked the world and challenged democratic norms. Considerations on how to teach the events of January 6th remains an open question, not just for the United States but for other democratic nations, including Germany. This comparative case study explored the similarities and differences in how US and German social studies/history teachers made meaning of the January 6th attack and their rationale for teaching (or in some cases not teaching) the event. The international comparison sheds light on how threats to democracy are perceived by educators and their pedagogical rationales for teaching them. Findings suggest that teachers’ analysis of media credibility and instructional decision-making were complicated by their social and cultural connections to the event. German participants expressed a greater willingness to teach the events of the insurrection compared to their US counterparts. This study offers recommendations beyond teaching January 6th for teacher educators and education stakeholders supportive of teaching difficult and controversial histories. Exploring these international comparisons also calls into question how events are remembered and taught, potentially impacting democratic education.
In light of concerns over the spread of so-called “fake news” on social media, organizations, and policymakers have increasingly sought to identify tools that can be used to stem the dissemination of misinformation and disinformation. Some evidence suggests that brief media literacy interventions might serve as an important means of helping social media users discern between “real” and “fake” news headlines. However, empirical research indicates that these effects tend to be relatively modest in magnitude. To that end, this study explored the degree to which epistemic self-efficacy beliefs may be able to positively “boost” media literacy interventions. Specifically, we used a series of 2 × 2 experiments to test the contention that the combinatory effects of epistemic self-efficacy and media literacy interventions will better equip users with the resources necessary to discern between disinformation and objectively produced news content. The results failed to indicate the presence of combinatory effects. We did, however, find initial evidence that epistemic self-efficacy beliefs may be importantly associated with the ability to properly classify both fake and mainstream news content.
Konserve haber türü, gazetelerin sayfalarını doldurmak için ellerinde bulundurdukları haberlerdir. Bu tür haberler genellikle haber sıkıntısı çekildiğinde kullanılmaktadır. Her zaman yayınlanabilecek ve her yayınlandığında okurların dikkatini çekebilecek özelliğe sahip olan konserve haberler gazeteler için oldukça önemlidir. Çünkü gazetelerin günlük haber sayısı az olduğunda ve çok fazla özel haber yapamadıklarında gazeteler için konserve haberler kurtarıcı olmaktadır. Özellikle internet gazetelerinde yer sıkıntısı olmadığı için ve daha fazla ‘tık’ almak için konserve haberlere oldukça fazla yer verilmektedir. İnternet gazetelerinde konserve haberlerin yeri ve önemini konu alan bu çalışmanın amacı, internet gazetelerinde bu haberlere ne kadar yer verildiği ve hangi haber kategorilerinde daha fazla olduğunu belirlemektir. Diğer yandan, çalışmada ele alınan gazetelerde konserve haber olmayan haberlerin oranını belirlemek ve bu haber türlerinin karşılaştırmasını yapmak da amaçlanmıştır. Araştırmayı yürütmek için 4 ulusal internet gazetesinin bütün haber kategorileri nicel içerik analizi yöntemi kullanılarak incelemeye alınmıştır. İncelemeye alınan örnek internet gazeteleri: habertü,, ve’dir. Bu gazeteler amaçlı örneklem belirleme yöntemiyle seçilmiştir. Ayrıca diğer haberler de incelenerek bir haberin konserve haber olması için ne tür özelliklere sahip olması gerektiği de çalışma kapsamına alınmıştır. Çalışmanın sonucunda, bazı internet gazetelerinin konserve haber türüne çok daha fazla yer verdiği, bazılarında ise bu haberlerin az sayıda bulunduğu ve bunların yerine rutin haberlere daha çok yer ayırıldığı tespit edilmiştir.
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Media inform and obfuscate. Corporate motives influence how news is neglected, reported, and contextualized. It is informative to examine the extent to which news content varies based on source and period. As a longstanding critic of news media, and a leading public intellectual, Noam Chomsky is a worthy case study. Three author-created, corpora of news articles referencing Noam Chomsky were created. The corpora contained articles from Agence France-Presse (AFP; n = 54), The Associated Press (AP; n = 48), and the Cable News Network Wire (CNNW; n = 6), from the years 2012 to 2022. Number and length analyses, along with hypothesis tests, established the degree of similarity existing among the articles of the three news wire services and periods. Analysis of variance showed that news source was significant in terms of both the number of articles (H2), F(2,6) = 5.916, p = 0.038., and article length (H4), F(2,105) = 23.936, p = 0.000 (alpha = 0.05). Little commonality in content or framing was established among the three news sources or periods in terms of top words or bigrams of merit. Whereas there were differences in the absolute values and degree of change, each of the three news sources contained a slightly negative average sentiment score when using the AFINN lexicon. The results of this study, while limited to a single case, are illustrative of broader concerns and are potentially useful for those engaged in media studies, politics, rhetoric, organizational management, and the social sciences.
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The National Council for the Social Studies Position Statement on Media Literacy argues that media literacy can facilitate participatory democracy if students' interest in media is harnessed. The statement conceives of media technology as neutral and under-conceptualizes socializing aspects of media technologies that foster atomized individualism. Narrowly grounded in New Media Literacies, Critical Media Studies, and Medium Theory scholarship, it offers a limited understanding of media as merely conduits for message transmission and concludes that media technology will create a more democratic society if students are encouraged to participate in it. The authors' pragmatist reconceptualization examines media not only as transmission but also as a space where common meanings are constructed. The authors offer a critical review that advances an alternative direction for media literacy in which learning for participatory democracy includes analyzing not only medium, messages, and content but also media forms and their relations to transactional tendencies within the broader society.
This book explains how Facebook devolved from an innocent social site created by Harvard students into a force that makes personal life a little more pleasurable, but at the same time makes democracy a lot more challenging. It talks about the hubris of good intentions, a missionary spirit, and an ideology that sees computer code as the universal solvent for all human problems. It also addresses how "social media" has fostered the deterioration of democratic culture around the world, from facilitating Russian meddling in support of Donald Trump's election to the exploitation of the platform by murderous authoritarians in Burma and the Philippines. The book analyzes the increase of recognition and reaction against Facebook's power in the last couple of years. It reviews the growing public concern about the influence Facebook exerts over lives and politics around the world.
Fake News: Falsehood, fabrication and fantasy in journalism examines the causes and consequences of the 'fake news' phenomenon now sweeping the world's media and political debates. Drawing on three decades of research and writing on journalism and news media, leading scholar Brian McNair engages with the fake news phenomenon in accessible, insightful language designed to bring clarity and context to a complex and fast-moving debate. McNair presents fake news not as a cultural issue in isolation but rather as arising from, and contributing to, significant political and social trends in twenty-first century societies. Chapters identify the factors which have laid the groundwork for fake news' explosive appearance at this moment in our globalised public sphere. These include the rise of relativism and the crisis of objectivity, the role of digital media platforms in the production and consumption of news, and the growing drive to produce online content which attracts users and generates revenue. The book also considers the decline of trust in journalism, and the how the traditional left critique of 'dominant ideology' and 'ruling elites' in media has been appropriated by the alt-right, nationalists and populists all over the world. This book rejects the left-right division in discussion of what is and is not 'fake news'. Rather, it aims to provide students, teachers, journalists and general readers with the tools necessary to navigate the digital journalism landscape in the era of President Donald Trump, and to filter out the 'fact' from the 'fake' in their news.
To be an informed citizen in today’s information-rich environment, individuals must be able to evaluate information they encounter on the Internet. However, teachers currently have limited options if they want to assess students’ evaluations of digital content. In response, we created a range of short tasks that assess students’ civic online reasoning—the ability to effectively search for, evaluate, and verify social and political information online. Assessments ranged from paper-and-pencil tasks to open Internet search tasks delivered via Google Forms. We outline a process of assessment development in which middle school, high school, and college students in 12 states completed tasks. We present a series of representative tasks and analyses of trends in student performance. Across tasks and grade levels, students struggled to effectively evaluate online claims, sources, and evidence. These results point to a need for curriculum materials that support students’ development of civic online reasoning competencies.
A firsthand account and incisive analysis of modern protest, revealing internet-fueled social movements' greatest strengths and frequent challenges. To understand a thwarted Turkish coup, an anti-Wall Street encampment, and a packed Tahrir Square, we must first comprehend the power and the weaknesses of using new technologies to mobilize large numbers of people. An incisive observer, writer, and participant in today's social movements, Zeynep Tufekci explains in this accessible and compelling book the nuanced trajectories of modern protests-how they form, how they operate differently from past protests, and why they have difficulty persisting in their long-term quests for change. Tufekci speaks from direct experience, combining on-the-ground interviews with insightful analysis. She describes how the internet helped the Zapatista uprisings in Mexico, the necessity of remote Twitter users to organize medical supplies during Arab Spring, the refusal to use bullhorns in the Occupy Movement that started in New York, and the empowering effect of tear gas in Istanbul's Gezi Park. These details from life inside social movements complete a moving investigation of authority, technology, and culture-and offer essential insights into the future of governance.
They always wanted Trump
  • G Debenedetti
Debenedetti, G. (2016). They always wanted Trump. Politico Magazine. Retrieved from: