MODULE 2 - DECRYPTING INFORMATION
SESSION 3 : INFORMATION AND DISINFORMATIONPractical activities
ACTIVITY 2 – Make your own fake news
Computer or smartphone, internet connection, video projector
The goal of this exercise is to show students how manipulating information and creating fake news is easy and can be done by anyone, and therefore to urge them to exercise more caution with the news they get from social media.
By putting them in the place of fake news producers or conspiracy theorists, they learn which tools and methods are used and become better at detecting this type of content in their daily internet use.
Fake news can take different forms and cover different topics. There is commercial fake news, conspiracy theories, fake science news, fake political news, fake pictures, and fake articles.
1. Set up the room: Have participants sit at the computers in groups.
2. Produce fake news:
- In this step, participants must choose the theme of fake news they want to make (scientific, political, etc.). The instructor can also suggest themes or specific topics.
- Once they have chosen the theme, participants must find news items and arguments to distort that news item. For example, they can find articles about their topic and take certain statements out of context, twist them, etc. They can also use photo editing software, such as Photoshop, or use doctored photos they find on the internet.
- To produce a fake news item, participants can follow the typical fake news pattern:
- The story must be surprising and/or shocking.
- Know who you want to target, whose attention you want to grab.
- Complain that ‘censorship’ is keeping your news item from being shared.
- When it comes to visual aspects, participants can simply write up an article in Microsoft Word or use a fake news generator to make the piece look ‘media-friendly’. Here are a few links: https://breakyourownnews.com/, https://www.thefakenewsgenerator.com/, https://www.worldgreynews.com/add-news.
3. Present and assess: Each group takes turns presenting their fake news piece or pieces. Other participants give their opinion.
- The teacher writes down students’ observations on the board. At the end of this part, students use the teacher’s notes on the board to identify recurring characteristics of fake news. They then offer explanations of fake news, how it works, its aims, and the impact that sharing fake news can have.
- Using the students’ explanations as a transition, the teacher gives more detail on how information is manipulated (see SHEET 8 – Fighting fake news and SHEET 10 – Images and the risk of manipulation).
- At the end of the activity, students give each fake news piece a grade to determine which ones were the most believable and most successful. Students must explain why these pieces were the most convincing.
4. Wrap up: This activity can be used to introduce the issue of false information and the distortion of images and facts.
DOING THIS ACTIVITY ONLINE
- The teacher creates a link on the videoconferencing platform Zoom and sends it to students (teachers can also use other platforms that they are familiar with).
- Once everyone is in the same ‘virtual meeting room’, the teacher puts the students into groups.
- The teacher assigns the themes of fake news the students will produce.
- Once the themes are chosen, students meet in ‘breakout rooms’ and work on creating the fake news item. To do this, they look for articles online and take their content out of context and distort the information.
- They can work together in real time on the same document using Google Drive, Framapad, or other collaborative online word processors.
- Once the groups have created their fake news, they return to the ‘main meeting room’ to present it to the class. The teacher can use an ‘online Post-It’ site as a virtual whiteboard (e.g. https://note.ly/) and show it to students in real time by sharing their screen.