While the major news organizations continue to fumble and fail to deliver quality news reporting, some small-scale outfits are promoting a culture of critical thinking and popular education to equip people with solid baloney-detecting skills.
Two professors from the University of Washington in Seattle have developed “Calling Bullshit in the age of big data”, an online syllabus that strongly resembles a self-defense course in critical thinking. They have submitted the course to their institution for offering in an upcoming semester. Meanwhile, they have detailed course readings, case studies and tools to fight back against the propagation of bogus news.
Since the US election, Breitbart news has been exposed as one of the main distributors of fake news with the purpose of distorting and influencing public opinion on current political issues.
In response, the twitter account @Slpng\giants is taking aim at perhaps most vulnerable point of these websites: ad revenues. The account calls out companies who are including Breitbart and other racist websites in their ad buys. So far, they have been successful at getting a number of companies to limit their ad buys and highlight their victories via their twitter feed.
Economics is one of the areas that these fake news sites focus on. Breitbart has even announced the opening of a financial “news” site.
Written well before the 2016 US election, Jim Stanford’s Economics for Everyone is an old one, but a good one. Based on his book of the same title, the website provides tools and resources for anyone seeking to better understand the economy from a workers' perspective. As he says, “Economics is too important to be left to the economists”. Economic analysis is also too important to be left to fake news outlets.
Even in this world of abundant information and data, education remains a powerful tool – perhaps the only one we’ve got.