Author: Thomas Nygren – Uppsala University, Sweden

Fredrik Brounéus – VA (Public & Science)

In recent years, “fake news” has been a hot topic in the public debate in many countries. Digital channels are being used systematically to spread propaganda and disinformation for a number of reasons, affecting not least young people. But to better grasp of the magnitude of the challenge, the actual news feeds of adolescents – and their perceived credibility – need to be explored scientifically. Only then will we have a solid base upon which to build teaching initiatives and materials to guide young citizens on how to navigate their digital news.

During two weeks in September 2017, 6,000 pupils aged between 13–19 helped researchers explore the hitherto unanswered question: “How trustworthy are adolescents’ newsfeeds?” in the Swedish citizen science project The News Evaluator. The pupils acted as research assistants, using scientific methods to categorise and evaluate online news in their own newsfeeds. To support the pupils in the research process, a digital tool was developed. Based upon principles that research has shown to be fundamental to digital source criticism, the tool guides the user through the evaluation process. This way the user will also be trained to think and act in a more reflective way when interacting with digital news.

The pupils submitted almost 6000 evaluated news items to The News Evaluator database. Afterwards, they were encouraged to explore the database through interactive graphics, comparing for example the news’ genres, credibility scores, domains and social media sources. Our preliminary findings highlights how pupils’ news feeds hold a lot of credible hard news from established media. But we also find that news reports on scientific discoveries and research in their feeds may be less credible. We also find that news shared in social media may hold more biased information than information found in pupils’ favorite news sites.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice