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Blog 85

Blog 85

Information Literacy and Fake News

The York University Libraries' Teaching, Learning, and Research Committee (TLRC)

It is impossible to avoid the term fake news these days. Fast news cycles and even faster social media channels enable the spread of misinformation. To add to this, news articles and images that imitate legitimate sources of information or share information in a fun way can lend an air of truth to falsehoods. Therefore, it is not always easy to discern the truth from the stream of information bombarding us daily as there is rarely enough time to adequately fact check. As Librarians, we know that fake news is particularly challenging for students because they have not developed the skills needed to discern reliable and credible information.

In response to the rise of fake news and the challenges that come with critically evaluating information, the York University Libraries’ (YUL) Teaching, Learning, and Research Committee (TLRC) initiated co-curricular programming to draw awareness around this issue by applying information literacy principles outlined by the  Association of College & Research Libraries' (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. We embraced this unique opportunity to engage more deeply with the York community in a real world setting, outside of classrooms or lecture halls where we normally teach these critical skills.

Our first campus initiative took place during the week of November 6th, 2017 to coincide with Media Literacy Week. This campaign consisted of media literacy book displays across the library branches and a “Fake News Unmasked!” social media campaign highlighting fact checking resources and tips on how to verify whether a news report is true. This information was shared on library LCD screens and via library Twitter accounts.

We also launched a bilingual Fake News LibGuide, an online collection of resources to help the York community to spot fake news, understand misleading graphs and statistics, identify fake photos, use social media wisely, and share fact checking websites and reliable news sources.

Here are the links to the English and French versions of the guide:

English -

French -

To build upon our November 2017 campaign, we held a special panel event, “Finding Truth in a Fake News World”, on Tuesday February 13, 2018, in the Scott Library Collaboratory. The goal for this event was to promote dialogue and discuss the implications of fake news in an open forum with insight from journalists and academics. Our four panelists were: Kate Allen, Science and Technology Journalist at the Toronto Star and former Science Communicator in Residence, who explained the journalistic process; Gail Cohen, Osgoode Hall Law School Journalist in Residence, who discussed journalistic integrity and trials by media; John Dupuis, Science & Engineering Librarian at the Steacie Science & Engineering Library, who spoke about predatory journals as academic parasites; and Fred Fletcher, University Professor Emeritus from the Communication Studies and Political Science Department, who provided insight on fake news and why it matters.

To continue our efforts to combat the impact of fake news, we also have plans to offer media literacy library sessions to the York community in the near future.

Has fake news impacted your teaching in any way? How can the libraries help you or your students avoid misinformation?

Please leave your comments below. We would love to hear from you!