Propaganda Techniques

Propaganda employs persuasive techniques that help spread ideas that further political, commercial, religious or civil causes. Here are several types of propaganda techniques with which you should become familiar:

Name calling: Attaching a negative label to a person or a thing. Used to make us reject and condemn a person or idea without examining what the label really means (AKA: stereotyping)
Glittering Generalities: This technique uses important-sounding "glad words" that have little or no real meaning. These words are used in general statements that cannot be proved or disproved (AKA: virtue words).
Transfer: The use of a positive symbol in an attempt to transfer its prestige, authority or respect to a person or an idea.
False Analogy: Portraying two things that may or may not really be similar as being similar.
Testimonial: Endorsement of an idea or product by a respected celebrity.
Card Stacking: Slanting a message in favor of a single outcome through omitting key words or unfavorable statistics (AKA: cherry picking or distortion of data).
Bandwagon: Encouraging action by highlighting the anxiety of being left out of something good or important
Either/or fallacy: Presenting an issue as having only two sides rather than multiple perspectives, middle ground or grey areas. Used to polarize issues, and negates all attempts to find a common ground (AKA: artificial dichotomy or black and white thinking).
Faulty Cause and Effect: Presenting two events or sets of data in a way to suggest that one caused the other to happen - a suggestion that because B follows A, A must cause B.
Least of Evils: Justifying an otherwise unpleasant or unpopular point of view by suggesting that the alternative is worse

News Literacy G.I.F.T.S.

G.I.F.T.S. (Great Ideas For Teaching Students)
are class-tested tools - activities, assignments, projects or assessment techniques - that you can use and adapt for your own classroom.

Skills and Strategies | Fake News vs. Real News: Determining the Reliability of Sources
The Learning Network, Teaching & Learning with the New York Times
A roundup of tools, questions, activities and case studies designed to help reduce digital naïveté

Many thanks to Lauren Morgan & Tabatha Roberts for sharing the original G.I.F.T.S. - Great Ideas for Teaching Speech.

Resources for Instructors

Resources for Teaching

Digital Resource Center
"This Digital Resource Center is all about sharing the accumulating wisdom and materials of the News Literacy teaching community, which works to strengthen democracy by teaching students to pluck reliable information from the daily media tsunami."

Center for Media Literacy
"Through the years, CML has not only advocated for media literacy education, but also designed, developed, implemented and evaluated resources for educators and communities to comprise the CML MediaLit Kit™. CML’s framework for media literacy is now evidenced-based, with a peer-reviewed longitudinal study by UCLA."

Stony Brook University's News Literacy Course
The full News Literacy course, developed at Stony Brook University, organizes the material into 8 concepts that are spread amongst our 14 week course that take students from the first information revolution of Johannes Gutenberg's printing press to the Digital Age of Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook. Each lesson stands alone or can easily be integrated into your program.

The Ultimate Critical Thinking Guide
A Who-What-Where-When-Why-How infographic guide to asking the questions that matter when engaging with new information.


Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Literacy
Executive Summary of the 2016 report released by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) showing students' inability to reason about information they see on the internet.

Truth Be Told: How Students Evaluate and Use Information in the Digital Age
A 2010 report from Project Information Literacy showing, among other things, that while students are frequent evaluators of information found on the Web and take little at face value, they overwhelmingly tend to turn to friends and family members for help evaluating information for personal use.

Promoting Civil Discourse Through Search Engine Diversity
doi: 10.1177/0894439313506838
A 2013 paper that focuses on increasing exposure to varied political opinions with a goal of improving civil discourse. Findings show that people who were shown more diverse results continued reading more diverse results and overall became more interested in news.

With Facebook, Blogs, and Fake News, Teens Reject Journalistic “Objectivity”
doi: 10.1177/0196859912458700
A 2012 article examining the news behaviors and attitudes of high school students. The results reveal changing ways news information is being accessed, new attitudes about what it means to be informed, and a youth preference for opinionated rather than objective news.


Evaluating Sources

search_icon.pngWhether you're researching a topic for an assignment or for your own use, you want information that is both useful
and credible.

How do you determine these things? Use the CRAP Test to evaluate your sources.

The CRAP Test asks you to consider the following criteria:
     Currency - the timeliness of the information
     Reliability - the accuracy and correctness of the information
     Authority - the source of the information
     Purpose - the reason the information exists

This guide will provide you with tips for evaluating types of sources and help you ask the questions necessary to determine if your information sources are both useful and credible.

Remember: the CRAP test isn't a checklist, but a guide to help you consider whether a source is appropriate for your specific need.

Attached files: 

Fake News

how-to-spot-fake-news.jpgBest Practices for Reading Articles Online
Fake Or Real? How To Self Check The News And Get The Facts by Wynne Davis

     • Pay attention to the domain and URL
     • Read the "About Us" section
     • Look at the quotes in the story
     • Look at who said them
     • Check the comments
     • Reverse image search*

Pew Research Center Report: The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online - October 2017
"Experts are evenly split on whether the coming decade will see a reduction in false and misleading narratives online. Those forecasting improvement place their hopes in technological fixes and in societal solutions. Others think the dark side of human nature is aided more than stifled by technology."

Hoaxy visualizes the spread of claims and related fact checking online. A claim may be a fake news article, hoax, rumor, conspiracy theory, satire, or even an accurate report. Anyone can use Hoaxy to explore how claims spread across social media. You can select any matching fact-checking articles to observe how those spread as well.

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satircal "News" Sources
Document created by Melissa Zimdars, assistant professor of communication and media at Merrimack College

Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a “post-truth” world
A collection of resources, vocabulary, and best practices from Joyce Valenza, assistant professor of teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication.

The Trust Project
The Trust Project, an initiative of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara (Calif.) University, is an organization that seeks to restore trust in the media by establishing indicators of accuracy and truthfulness in news sources. The Trust Project has collaborated with news executives to develop "Trust Indicators" for identifying responsible and reliable reporting.

The #Election2016 Micro-Propaganda Machine
An examination and data visualization of how rightwing websites spread their message during the 2016 election by Jonathan Albright

*Did you know you can use Google to search for information on images? Learn how: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808


Filter Bubble

What is the filter bubble?

The term filter bubble was coined by Eli Pariser in his book of the same name in reference to the problem created when users rely on personalized searches and, as a result, become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints. Examples include Google Personalized Search and Facebook's news stream.

'Beware online "filter bubbles"
Eli Pariser TED Talk

Bursting your Filter Bubble
University of Illinois Libraries

How to Burst the "Filter Bubble" that Protects Us from Opposing Views
MIT Technology Review

How can Facebook and its users burst the ‘filter bubble’?

Google, democracy and the truth about internet search (2016) Carole Cadwalladr

Tools to Help Escape the Filter Bubble

DuckDuckGo is a web search engine that does not track or profile its users and thereby avoids the filter bubble of personalized search results.

Pop Your Bubble
A website that adds new perspectives to your Facebook feed, citing the statistic that "only 5% of us see social media posts that differ greatly from our world view." Pop Your Bubble "will connect you to people with different perspectives" using an "algorithm analyzes your profile and suggests new people for you to follow based on your age, location, likes and shares."

A community-driven app that tells you when the webpage you are viewing has been disputed, rebutted or contradicted elsewhere on the internet.

Escape Your Bubble
A Chrome extension that inserts "curated, positive posts" into your Facebook feed with the goal of helping you develop an understanding of the opposing party. Not on Facebook? Escape Your Bubble will send you articles via email, too.

Learn what it's like to view the world through someone else's Twitter feed. FlipFeed uses social network analysis to find a feed that leans differently from you own and provide you with allow you to navigate content with a radically different lens. Developed by MIT Media Lab's Laboratory for Social Machines.

Read Across the Aisle
"Just as your Fitbit reminds you to get up and walk around after an hour of inactivity, this app will notice when you’ve gotten a little too comfortable in your filter bubble—and it’ll remind you to go see what other folks are reading."


Fact-Checking Websites

Award-winning project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

Fact Checker
A Washington Post site and column with the goal of acting as "truth squad" for the statements of political figures.

A service of FactCheck.org providing resources designed to help viewers recognize flaws in arguments in general and political ads

Health News Review
A web-based project that rates the completeness, accuracy, and balance of U.S. news stories that include claims about medical treatments, tests, products and procedures

Media Matters for America
A politically progressive media watchdog.

Media Research Center project dedicated to exposing & combating liberal media bias

The website of the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy

The Pulitzer Prize winning project from the Tampa Bay Times

An independent reference page aiming to debunk or confirm widely spread urban legends.

Sunlight Foundation
A national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses the tools of civic tech, open data, policy analysis and journalism to make our government and politics more accountable and transparent to all


Tip: Evaluating Websites

Its important to evaluate the information from websites. When reviewing information, ask the following questions:

  • How old is this material? Is there a date of publication? Is the material out-of-date?
  • Who wrote this information? Is the company or person who sponsors the website reputable?
  • Is the website trying to sell you something? 
  • Is the information biased?  Does it seem like the author is just giving his/her opinion?
  • Is the information backed up with facts that you can confirm using other sources?
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