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Friday, January 12, 2018

What a Lobster Can Teach You About Fake News

Some of you may recall that just before Christmas an ESPN radio show fell for a fake news story about a high school basketball game in Maine being cancelled when the ball got stuck behind the wood stove in the gym. That story came from a website called New Maine News. It's not just big media outlets that fall for the fake news stories on New Maine News. It seems that almost every story posted on the site or corresponding Facebook page has at least one comment from someone who thinks that the satirical site is a real news website. That is probably what motivated this ridiculous story about a talking lobster complaining about the blurring of lines between real and fake news.

In the story Line Between Real and Fake Maine News Increasingly Blurred Says Magic 8-foot Tall Talking Lobster a talking lobster named Ol' Nick points out a couple of the reasons why fake news stories spread so quickly on social media. Ol' Nick tells us,
"People see a headline, or a link, and it confirms something they want to believe is true, so they share it as fact." 
Ol' Nick also shares this bit of advice,
“Is it too good to be true? Does it instantly appeal to something you believe in an extreme way? Click on the link. Check out the source. It might be a joke site and the first story you find is something absolutely absurd.”
Applications for Education
Read the entire story on New Maine News and you'll find a couple of other pieces that serve as reminders to fact-check the headlines and stories that we see shared online.

Before sharing the lobster story, have your students read the story that fooled ESPN and see if they can identify whether or not the story is true. Then follow-up with the story featuring the 8 Foot Tall Talking Lobster.