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The first move of SIFT is the simplest. STOP reminds you of two things:
When you find online content and start reading --- STOP. Ask yourself if you know and trust the website or source of information. If you don't, use SIFT to learn more about the source you are looking at. Don't read or share it until you know what it is and where it comes from.
When using SIFT to investigate sources, it's easy to go down a rabbit hole and end up feeling overwhelmed. If this happens, STOP to remind yourself of the original goal and re-adjust your fact-checking strategy.
Some Quick Questions To Ask at STOP
What type of content is this? (Is it news, opinion, or entertainment? Is it biased?)
Who wrote/created and published it? (Who is the author or organization -- are they trustworthy?)
Why was it created? (To inform or to pursuade?)
When was it published? (Is the information current or outdated?)
If your answer to any of these questions is "I don't know," then, it's time to move onto the next step of SIFT--Investigate.
Student Evaluation Skills
Feeling overwhelmed? You're not alone...
In 2016, a study asked nearly 8,000 students in middle school, high school and college to perform five web evaluation tasks. Here are some of the results:
80% of students couldn't distinguish "sponsored content" (such as advertisements) from news articles on websites.
67% of students failed to recognize potential bias in online information
65% of students took online images (such as memes, videos, and photos) at face value
and, almost all struggled to evaluate information on social media
Note: This SIFT method guide was adapted from Michael Caulfield's "Check, Please!" course at http://lessons.checkplease.cc. The text and media is (for the most part) CC-BY, and free for reuse and revision. The authors ask that people copying this course leave this note intact, so that students and instructors can find their way back to the original (periodically updated) version if necessary.
Prebunking allows students to understand the motivations of those who spread disinformation, and thus, helps them to recognize false and biased content when they encounter it. This can be achieved through online games, such as Bad News, where students become the purveyors of "fake news" themselves (in a controlled manner) in order to understand and neutralize the effects of online disinformation.
Prebunking uses the social psychology method of "attitude inoculation," which (similar to how vaccines inoculate our bodies against harmful viruses), helps to build up a person's resistance to disinformation. This idea works hand-in-hand with the first step of SIFT, which is STOP. Being mindful of the motives of disinformation creators can help students to stop and think before using or sharing questionable sources.
In Bad News, you take on the role of fake news-monger. Drop all pretense of ethics and choose a path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate.
This game was developed as a publicly accessible media literacy tool, and is ideal for educational settings. Click the "For Educators" button for an info sheet that contains more about how the game was developed, its scientific background, and how to use it in a classroom setting.
GO VIRAL! is a 5-minute game that helps protect you against COVID-19 misinformation. You’ll learn about some of the most common strategies used to spread false and misleading information about the virus. Understanding these tricks allows you to resist them the next time you come across them online.
The Miseducation of Dylann Roof Video
This video discusses the dangers of online disinformation and why it's important to STOP and learn about where information comes from.