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Super Awesome Science Show: Fake News

A person scrolls the screen of a mobile phone while loading information on how to counter fake news in New Delhi, India, in May 2019.
A person scrolls the screen of a mobile phone while loading information on how to counter fake news in New Delhi, India, in May 2019. EPA/HARISH TYAGI

In a fast 24-hour news cycle, stories sometimes get the facts wrong. Normally, these lapses are not intentional. But recently, there has been an explosion in false, inaccurate and harmful stories that are made with the sole purpose of convincing the public that a different reality exists. It’s known as fake news, and on this week’s Super Awesome Science Show, we’re going to explore its nature, how to diagnose it and also how not to be fooled by it.

READ MORE: Bots have small role in federal campaign so far, study finds

Our first guest is Amber Day, a professor at Bryant University. She reveals that fake news has a base in satire and parody, although it has devolved into something more troubling. We learn about how the goals have evolved from bringing humour to bringing trust. What makes fake news so difficult is that many of the tactics used mimic tried-and-true modes of satire and parody such that we may be unable to judge between what is and what is not real.

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Because fake news is hard to identify, our next guest has developed software that can detect different types of fake news. Her name is Victoria Rubin and she is an associate professor at the University of Western Ontario. She has developed the LiT.RL news verification browser that can identify fake news and highlights it so you are informed before you click. We discuss how this browser was developed and how accurate it is compared to the human eye.

READ MORE: Fake news section of Elections Act faces Charter challenge

In our SASS Class, we learn about one of the main reasons people fall for fake news. Our guest teacher is Gordon Pennycook and he an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan. He has tried to understand why people tend to believe these falsified stories and has come up with a rather unexpected result. While partisan beliefs do play a role, the most important factor is one we can all appreciate. It’s laziness.

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Contact:

Twitter: @JATetro
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Guests:

Amber Day
Web: https://departments.bryant.edu/english-and-cultural-studies/faculty/day-amber

Victoria Rubin
Web: https://victoriarubin.fims.uwo.ca/
Twitter: @vVctoriaRubin
LiT.RL Browser: https://victoriarubin.fims.uwo.ca/2018/12/19/release-for-the-lit-rl-news-verification-browser-detecting-clickbait-satire-and-falsified-news/

Gordon Pennycook
Web: https://www.uregina.ca/arts/psychology/faculty-staff/faculty/pennycook%20gordon.html
Twitter: @GordPennycook

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