CoverMedia Literacy Activities for Learning Civics ConceptsDefining Critical Media LiteracyTopic 1. Foundations of the United States Political System1.1 Democracy in Social Media Policies and Community Standards1.2 The Internet as a Public Utility1.3  21st Century Women STEM Innovators1.4 Media Coverage of Kings, Queens, and Royal Families1.5 Representations of Native Americans in Films, Local History Publications, and School MascotsTopic 2. The Development of United States Government2.1 Declarations of Independence on Social Media2.2 Media Marketing and Government Regulation of Self-Driving Cars and Electric Vehicles2.3 Representations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the Media2.4 Political Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American Musical2.5 Bill of Rights on TwitterTopic 3. Institutions of United States Government3.1: Hollywood Movies About the Branches of Government3.2: Writing an Impeachment Press Release3.3: Members of Congress' Use of Social Media3.4: Political Impacts of Public Opinion Polls3.5: Website Design for New Political PartiesTopic 4. The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens4.1: Immigration in the News4.2: Portrayals of Immigrants in Television and Film4.3: COVID-19 Information Evaluation4.4: Women Political Leaders in the Media4.5: Online Messaging by Special Interest Groups4.6: Digital Games for Civic Engagement4.7: Social Media and the Elections4.8: Images of Political Leaders and Political Power4.9: Media Spin in the Coverage of Political Debates4.10: Celebrities' Influence on Politics4.11: Political Activism Through Social Media4.12: Media Recruitment of Public Sector Workers4.13: Images of Teachers and Teaching4.14: For Whom Is and Could Your School Be Named4.15: Representing Trans Identities4.16: Media Framing of the Events of January 6, 20214.17: Music as Protest Art4.18: PACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the MediaTopic 5. The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court Decisions5.1: Prohibition in the Media5.2: The Equal Rights Amendment on Twitter and Other Social Media5.3: Civil War Era News Stories and Recruitment Advertisements5.4: Representations of Gender and Race on Currency5.5: The Equality Act on Twitter5.6: Reading Supreme Court Dissents Aloud5.7: Television Cameras in CourtroomsTopic 6. The Structure of State and Local Government6.1: Native American Mascots and Logos6.2: A Constitution for the Internet6.3: Military Recruitment and the Media6.4: Your Privacy on Social Media6.5: Pandemic Policy Information in the Media6.6: Gendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in Politics6.7: Gendered Toy Marketing6.8: Environmental Campaigns Using Social Media6.9: Trusted Messengers, the Media, and the Pandemic6.10: Online Campaigning for Political Office6.11: Advertising the Lottery Online and In Print6.12: Local Governments, Social Media and Digital Democracy6.13: Protecting the CommonsTopic 7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media Literacy7.1: Press Freedom in the United States and the World7.2: Objectivity and Reporting the News from All Sides7.3: Investigative Journalism and Social Change7.4: News Photographs & Newspaper Design7.5: How Reporters Report Events7.6: Recommendation Algorithms on Social Media Platforms7.7: YouTube Content Creators7.8: Fake News Investigation and Evaluation7.9: Paywalls and Access to Online News7.10: Critical Visual Analysis of Online and Print Media7.11: Memes and TikToks as Political Cartoons7.12: Women Reporters in the Movies

7.8: Fake News Investigation and Evaluation

People get news today from sources ranging from television, social media (e.g., Twitter, TikTok) and legacy news outlets (i.e., New York Times, Washington Post) as well as teachers, parents, family members, and peers. Yet, there is a real difference in quality and reliability between real news and fake news.

Fake news resembles real news in form (it usually has headlines, images, quotes, and a news-like look on screens), but not in how it is produced organizationally. Real news is derived following the standards and rules of journalism. It is fact-based and fact-checked from verified sources. It is presented objectively and truthfully in a journalistic style of writing. It is independent of political or corporate influences. Fake news, by contrast, is just what the term says -- information that is intentionally false and misleading (Molina, et al., 2021).

Misinformation and Disinformation: Thinking Critically about Information Sources from the College of Staten Island offers a further explanation of fake news and misleading, unreliable and deliberately false information.

Given the amount of fake and false news online and in print, every individual must become their own fact checker and news analyst - determining for themselves what is credible and reliable information and what is fake and false misinformation.

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The following activities are designed to help you act as a critical news evaluator.

You can get more background information from Topic 7.4 Social Media, Digital News, and the Spread of Misinformation and Topic 7.5 Evaluating Print and Online Media in our Building Democracy for All eBook.

Activity 1: Analyze Your Online Search Habits 

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Analyze Your Own Search Habits by Maria Trifiro

Example Mindmap for the Search Topic "Montessori Schools" by Kayleigh Francis:

Montessori schools mindmap featuring 4 sources with a description of whether each source is credible and what was learned from the source
This image is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

Example Mindmap for the Search Topic "Homeschooling" by Sara Shea:

Example mindmap for the search topic Homeschooling with 4 sources and a description of what was learned and whether the source is credible
This image is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

Activity 2: Create a News Evaluation Tool

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Create a News Evaluation Tool by Maria Trifiro

Example News Evaluation Tool by Sophia Hajjar:

Mindmap of Detecting Fake News: Does it PPASE the test. Popularity, prose, advertisements, structure, evidence
This image is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

Activity 3: Evaluate the Benefits and Challenges of Digital News and Social Media to a Democratic Society

Nearly half of adults ages 18 to 29 in this country get their political news mostly on social media. The figure is one in five across all ages groups. Those individuals also tend to be less well-informed about political issues and policies (Pew Research Center, July 30, 2020).

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Evaluate the Benefits and Challenges of Digital News and Social Media to a Democratic Society by Maria Trifiro

Additional Resources

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Evaluate the benefits and challenges of digital news and social media to a democratic society. (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T7.4]
  • ISTE Standards
    • Knowledge Constructor
      • 3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
      • 3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data, or other resources.
      • 3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication. 
      • 6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
      • 6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for the intended audiences.
  • DLCS Standards
    • Interpersonal and Societal Impact (CAS.c)
    • Digital Tools (DTC.a)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.8