Posted on Aug 17, 2022
Last week our featured speaker was Dr Dominik Stecula, Assistant Professor of Political Science at CSU. His talk was entitled Responsible Digital Citizenship in the Age of Information Disorder. What commonly is referred to as “fake news” is better described by the term Information Disorder. Based on the number of google searches the peak activity for disinformation was in 2015-2016, corresponding with the presidential election cycle. It has declined since. Today, the term “fake news” has become a partisan insult and has been appropriately replaced by terms such as “disinformation”.
The terms misinformation, disinformation and malinformation were depicted by a Venn diagram emphasizing the degree of falseness and the intent to harm.  Information does not have to be “fake” to be misleading and intent really does matter.
Even at its peak (2016) – how widespread was the fake news phenomenon?  Only 27% of Americans were exposed and by the 2018 midterms “fake news” had declined by 75%.  The distribution was also quite uneven – eg, 1% of Twitter users accounted for 80% of “fake news” exposures.  How persuasive is the exposure?  Media effects were smaller than expected.  A single fake news article in 2016 was as persuasive as a TV campaign ad (not enough to swing the election).
Supply and demand are important components.  On the supply side, motivations are sometimes political but just as often, financial (how many hits or eyes can be brought to an outrageous story).  On the demand side the audience is commonly “hyper partisan”.
Most important - are there potential solutions going forward?  These can be divided into systemic-regulation, platform design, factchecking and news literacy and personal (responsible digital citizenship). Good habits include looking for a healthy media diet including local news (less cable news), thinking twice before sharing questionable content, double checking questionable content and utilizing plugins like NewsGuard.
Finally, a resource was shared entitled “A Citizen’s Guide to Navigating Information Disorder”.  I am sure our members have given this subject a lot of thought in the years since 2016 and we will soon be faced with choices regarding information sourcing as the midterms arrive.  We thank Dr Stecula for providing guidance as we try to improve our “news literacy”.