Instituto Politécnico de Viseu - Escola Superior de Educação (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN20 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 7764-7771
ISBN: 978-84-09-17979-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2020.1959
Conference name: 12th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-7 July, 2020
Location: Online Conference
Technological development and the proliferation of online tools for mass digital communication have increased the speed of distribution and consumption of information. This digital ecosystem allows a better verification of facts, stories, and claims, however, there is also an increasing tendency to create and share false stories on social media. This spread can come in many forms, including text, manipulated images, and even "deepfakes” - fake and digitally manipulated videos with credible results [1].

Through mimetic processes of accredited journalism, fake news are also a threat to democracy [3], so it becomes necessary to analyze possible responses to this phenomenon. Suggestions from different entities, like European Commission, allow us to identify four main approaches in fighting disinformation:
1) legislative measures;
2) structural changes in the digital ecosystem;
3) development of digital tools to support fake news detection; and
4) greater digital literacy via education and training.

In this context, there seems to be a need to empower citizens with adequate epistemological skills. These skills require greater awareness and recognition of the phenomenon of fake news that goes through the education and training of the individual to overcome the reflective processes that they use to present themselves as real news for the reader.

Keeping these ideas in mind, we conducted a case study in a Portuguese Public Higher Education Institution whose aim was to investigate about student's perceptions of fake news. Information was collected using an online questionnaire and interviews. In this paper, we present some of the results gathered with the survey covering specific issues related to fake news identification. The sample comprised 139 students who were attending the bachelor’s degree in Media and Communication, in the academic year 2019/2020.

Among a wide range of results obtained, we found out that, for the most part, students are unaware of how news appears on their newsfeed. Although, they admit search for some additional information when faced with an online article to check the author and confirm if the sources are mentioned. The results emphasize that students can identify credible sources of information, and to distinguish texts from fake news articles and accredited newspapers. When observing examples of true and false news headlines, most students identified at least one of malicious origin; however, only a minority of the participants were able to locate precisely the two fake news headlines presented.

From the results obtained, we can conclude that students are relatively well prepared to deal with the phenomenon of fake news. Some of the weaknesses observed in the identification of texts, titles and websites of fake news confirm the idea that fake news is similar to real news to deceive the reader. On the other hand, we cannot discard the possibility of an inverse relationship that may show a trend towards the use, by reputable newspapers, of styles and linguistics resources closer to the fake news.

[1] Ruchansky, Seo & Liu, 2017
Disinformation, Fake News, Students, Higher Education, Portugal.