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November 2, 2020

Why are People Susceptible to Disinformation?

Who uses disinformation to manipulate opinion online? What are some of the risks of people believing disinformation?


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Social Media and Disinformation

Social media plays a major role in shaping current American political discourse. During a Senate hearing Wednesday, executives from leading online platforms were criticized by lawmakers for their companies’ records on limiting the spread of misinformation. Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. To read the transcript of the video above, click here.

Discussion Questions on Disinformation:

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

    • Who uses disinformation to manipulate opinion online?
    • What are some of the risks of people believing disinformation?
    • When and Where are voters getting information about the upcoming election?
    • Why do fear and threat events increase susceptibility to misinformation, according to this piece?
    • How is the way misinformation spread now different than in the past?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Focus Questions:

  1. Can you think of any recent social media post that you thought might be intentional disinformation? What was it?
  2. Do you have a method for determining what you can believe that you read online?
  3. Do you think social media companies should try to fact check or flag misinformation online? Why or why not?

Media Literacy:

Why do you think the journalist in this piece only spoke to voters who were ardent Trump supporters (aside from the expert)? Who else do you think they should have talked to?

Dig Deeper: 

  1. Wondering what makes a democracy tick? What is gerrymandering, anyways? Check out our partner’s civics collections at Share My Lesson:
  2.  Do you know how to distinguish fact from fiction online? It can be difficult, but there are ways to judge good information from bad. Watch the video below to find out how or follow the link to this lesson to learn more.

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.

PBS NewsHour Classroom

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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