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University of Michigan to help citizens spot fake news

The Onion
Fake news from The Onion

Fake news has become ubiquitous, and it's more sophisticated and thus harder to spot, say communications experts at the University of Michigan.

In response, they'll offer a free online course on Friday, "Fake News, Facts, and Alternative Facts" on the edX website, which universities use to offer free classes to the public.

Brian Weeks teaches communication studies.  He says it's good news that Google and Facebook are launching new tools to help people try to determine if something is true.  But he thinks the best strategy is citizen education.

"I think inaccurate information and fake news is a threat to fundamental foundations of democracy," says Weeks.  "I mean, in order to have a meaningful political dialogue, we need to come to some sort of agreement on the facts."

Weeks says one tip is to always read past the headline.  People should find out who wrote the story, and see if other reputable news organizations reported the same story.

He says people need to question their own biases - as well as those of their friends who share stories on Facebook and other social media outlets.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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