Navigating fake news, media bias and fact checkers — UK Election Special

MMU Library blog
Nov 28 · 4 min read

Written by librarians Sarah Webb & Louise Frith

Okay, so there’s an election taking place at the moment and polling day is Thursday 12th December and everyone needs to vote because:

a) it’s important to your future

b) people literally died so that we could vote

c) millions of people around the world don’t get to vote.

And before we cast our vote we need to stay informed, be aware and make sure we’re voting on the best available evidence. Remember a vote isn’t just for Christmas!

Decisions, decisions…

According to a recent poll by the Student Union here at Manchester Met, 49% of our students have never voted in the UK before and their biggest concerns are around the NHS, Brexit and Climate Change. So, if you need some strategies in navigating an increasingly crowded online political world then the Library’s happy to help.

We’re running a Fake News: Election Special workshop on the 4th December 2019 which you can book onto here.

Media bias

Pretty much every source of information you look at around this election, especially the news, will have a particular bias. This is always the case but it is even more apparent during the run-up to an election.

Let’s look at some examples:

Same story- very different points of view

As you can see, the picture is murky at best with most news sources taking a very strong stance at both ends of the political spectrum.

There are a number of points to consider when reading any media source on politics and policies:

· Consider why it has been written- is it to discredit someone/a party/a particular viewpoint?

· Does the news source have a particular political viewpoint or agenda?

· Who funds this news source?

· Is this a factual or an opinion piece?

One place you can find this type of information is Media Bias Fact Check . This site evaluates over 1300 news sources and rates them in terms of their political leanings, how factual their reporting is and the quality of its sources. They explain how they have drawn these conclusions using this methodology .

Often the best way to find out about an issue you come across in the news is to go to the source, be it a party manifesto, interview, debate or a speech and find out exactly what was said. However, be aware that there are deepfake videos out there using technology to make it look like someone has said something they haven’t.

Claims, counterclaims and manifestos

So how do you know that the claims made by the political parties, their manifestos (short, long, verbose and to the point) and their spokespeople are true and believable?

Our workshop introduces you to some quick and easy techniques that can help you ask the right questions of any political claim so you’re not misled before you vote.

It is always better to check beyond the headlines and find out what policies have actually been proposed

We’ll also look at the amazing fact checkers who work night and day examining political claims and promises. There are many fact-checking sites you can use like Full Fact— but there’s also been one that turned out to be a political party with a temporary name change, so not so good.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is a lot to cover when it comes to finding information for the election so you can make an informed and balanced judgement of who to vote for. Our workshop will help you navigate the news (both real, fake, bias or misleading) and give you the chance to investigate political stories yourself and form strategies to help separate out the facts and be election ready.

Please read our previous post on How Fake News is a Real Problem which Louise wrote last year when we started running our workshops.

We run a variety of workshops throughout the year including Fake News, Referencing and Endnote. You can book onto these using our eventbrite page.

MMU Library blog

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Stories from your library. The main library website is https://www.library.mmu.ac.uk/ and you can contact us at library@mmu.ac.uk

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