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Confronting Fake News and Misinformation

Universities have long endeavored to teach students the habits of mind and critical thinking skills that are the cornerstone of informed and responsible civic engagement. Today, these endeavors have taken on a new sense of urgency.

At the University of Washington, we strive to equip our students with the skills to navigate today’s complex and ever-changing media landscape. While propaganda and misinformation are nothing new, today’s media landscape presents information consumers with a host of new challenges:

We help students confront fake news and misinformation with a focus on the timeless—habits of mind like evaluating sources, asking for proof, digging deeper—and the timely—understanding the digital media landscape and its financial drivers. Our goal? To empower our students to be savvy consumers, and responsible producers, of news and information.

Resources for teaching

  • Bad News
    Online game developed by researchers in the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab in which players compete to become “a disinformation and fake news tycoon”. The game introduces players to the practices employed to spread disinformation in the hopes that they will then be able to spot disinformation before sharing it. Read more in The Guardian’s Bad News: the game researchers hope will ‘vaccinate’ public against fake news and listen to NPR’s Spot Fake News By Making It interview with Cambridge researcher Sander van der Linden.
  • Don’t Take the Clickbait: How to Lead a “fake news” teach-in
    Emily Carlin and Darcy Gervasio of SUNY Purchase College
    Outline, handouts, and resources for leading a “fake news” teach-in. Includes hands-on activities: fact checking and evaluating news sources on a spectrum and different strategies for fighting the spread of fake news and misinformation.
  • Evaluating Sources Exercise (classroom activity)
    Nicole Gustavsen, University of Washington Bothell & Cascadia College
    Evaluation activity with links to six sources and two scenarios for each.
  • Facing Ferguson: News Literacy in a Digital Age
    11 lessons (videos interviews with journalists and scholars, analysis of news coverage and images, and activities). Lessons 5 and 6 focus on verification of breaking news and social media.
  • Factitious
    Game that tests player’s ability to recognize fake news. Read more in NPR’s To Test Your Fake News Judgement, Play This Game by Tennessee Watson.
  • Fake News Workshop Series
    Marisa Petrich, University of Washington Tacoma
    3-part series includes: News Literacy 101, Spotting a Fake and Evaluating Claims, and Accounting for Bias – in the Media and Ourselves. Series outline.
  • False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources
    Melissa Zimdars, Merrimack College professor
    Tips for analyzing news sources and working list of websites that have been analyzed and tagged with labels like fake, satire, clickbait, and more.
    Mike Caufield’s blog includes posts about and student activities to develop web literacy skills.
    Posts provide analysis to consider when developing literacy (digital, information, media, web)
    skills activities for students.
  • News Ecosystem: News Bias and Accuracy
    Jessica Albano and Theresa Mudrock, UW Libraries
    Students place news organizations (logos) on a journalism quality and news bias scale (poster) adapted version of Vanessa Otero’s “Media Bias” chart.
  • News Literacy and Reliable Sources
    Marisa Petrich, University of Washington Tacoma
    Module available through Canvas Commons that helps students understand the hallmarks of a reliable news source, recognize signs that information may be unreliable, and have a framework for thinking about media bias.
  • “Pin the Source on the Spectrum”: Fake News is on a Continuum
    Emily Carlin and Darcy Gervasio of SUNY Purchase College
    Pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey activity using a blank version of Vanessa Otero’s “Media Bias” chart.
  • Triangulating Truth: A Media Literacy Toolkit for a “Post-Truth” World
    Jessica Albano and Kathleen Collins, UW Libraries
    Includes the following model lesson plans that encourage source evaluation: Constructing Credibility in Your Classroom, Source Evaluation Jigsaw, and Popular-to-Scholarly Sources.
  • Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers (Open textbook)
    Mike Caulfield, Washington State University Vancouver
    OER text (available in HTML, epub, pdf, and Kindle formats) that organizes tips for “student fact checkers” around four habits of mind. The textbook includes practical discussions and six different fact-checking activities that could be integrated into a class session.

Fact Checkers

Guides to Evaluating and Fact Checking

Upcoming Events

Kate Starbird headshot

Muddied Waters: Online Disinformation during Crisis Events

Kate Starbird | April 18, 5:00-6:15, Bagley 131

Recent public debate around “fake news” has highlighted the growing challenge of determining information veracity online—a complex problem at the intersection of technology, human cognition, and human behavior. Read more.

Jevin West headshot

Cleaning up our polluted information environments

Jevin West | April 24, 5:00-6:15, Gowen 301

Pandering politicians, winking advertisers, startup soothsayers, television “experts”, and even some scientists use the news media to promulgate half-truths, misrepresentations and sometimes outright lies. Read more.

f_berit_1 (1)

The New Global Politics of Weaponized AI Propaganda

Berit Anderson | April 30, 5:00-6:15, HUB Lyceum

Silicon Valley spent the last ten years building platforms whose natural end state is digital addiction. In 2016, a small group of powerful actors hijacked them. Read more.

Past Events

This list is just a sampling of readings concerning the issues of misinformation, disinformation, fake news and information literacy. Please contact a UW Librarian for help finding more readings that meet your needs or those of your students.


Subject-Matter Experts

  • Carl Bergstrom, Professor, Biology
    Bergstrom co-teaches the course “Calling Bullshit” that teaches students to think critically about the data and models that constitute evidence in the social and natural sciences. He is co-authoring a book on the subject with Jevin West.

  • Scott Radnitz, Associate Professor, International Studies; Adjunct Associate Professor, Political Science and Sociology
    Radnitz teaches a Jackson School Task Force focusing on fake news, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and rumors. He is currently researching the role of conspiracy theories in the politics of post-Soviet states.
  • Kate Starbird, Assistant Professor, Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE)
    Starbird’s research sits at the intersection of computer science and social science. Her study of social media during crisis events incorporates rumors, conspiracy theories, disinformation, and propaganda as well as the social networks and media outlets that promote them.

  • Jevin West, Assistant Professor, Information School
    West co-teaches the course “Calling Bullshit” that teaches students to think critically about the data and models that constitute evidence in the social and natural sciences. He is co-authoring a book on the subject with Carl Bergstrom.

UW Librarians are available to collaborate with instructors on best practices for incorporating critical research, thinking, and literacy skills (data, information, media, news, technological) into course assignments and the curriculum. UW subject librarians are available to meet with students to suggest strategies for finding and evaluating sources for their research.

  • Amanda Hornby, Head of Teaching & Learning at Odegaard Library, UW Libraries. Expertise: teaching and learning in libraries, active learning pedagogy, information literacy and curriculum design.
  • Jessica Albano, Communication Studies and News Librarian, Head, Government Publications, Maps, Microforms & Newspapers, UW Libraries. Expertise: credible news sources, fake news, media literacy, news literacy.
  • Kathleen Collins, Sociology Librarian, UW Libraries. Expertise: information in social context; developing active learning activities to incorporate into courses.
  • Kian Flynn, Geography and Global Studies Librarian, UW Libraries. Expertise: information and data literacy, government information.
  • Nia Lam, Media Studies Librarian, UW Bothell & Cascadia College, UW Libraries. Expertise: credible news sources, fake news, media literacy, news literacy.
  • Marisa Petrich, Instructional Design Librarian, UW Tacoma, UW Libraries. Expertise: news production, news and media literacy skills, developing online and face-to-face classroom activities, and fake news.
  • Sally Pine, Biological Sciences Librarian, UW Libraries. Expertise: information and data literacy, particularly in the sciences.

Contact your UW subject librarian: Bothell campus | Health Sciences | Seattle campus | Tacoma campus | Librarians by Language

Members of the UW community are welcome to contribute resources they have created or publicly available resources they have found useful when teaching. Contact: UW Librarian Jessica Albano