Since the 2016 election resources and studies of fake news have proliferated — and not all of it is great. Below I share a list of the helpful and accessible resources I’ve found, but if you’re pressed for time I would highly recommend beginning with Andrew Marantz’s book, Antisocial, and WNYC’s show, On the Media.
Antisocial by Andrew Marantz. The best book on the rise of fake news, Marantz explores the relationship between social media and the rise of the alt-right and Donald Trump — and ultimately the difficulty of covering these convergences as an ethical journalist. His book is thorough, well-written, critical, and direct — but also reflective.
The Death of Truth by Michiko Kakutani. An exploration of the unlying historical and cultural forces that have ushered the rise of fake news, presenting a nice compliment to books more focused on technology.
Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Noble & Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil. Two highly regarded, accessible books that look at the discriminatory nature of algorithms, the invisible coding that controls everything from returns from search engines to our insurance rates.
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener. A fascinating memoir about a millennial who moved to Silicon Valley only discover the multiple problems with new media, technology, and its relationship to surveillance. Not about fake news per se, but her story unravels many of the underlying dynamics that contribute to the problem.
Fact-checking sites & resources on web literacy
Politifact. A frequently-updated, politically-focused fact-checking site from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
Factcheck.org. A robust fact-checking site funded by the Annenberg Foundation that offers several sections on COVID, Facebook, and Science checks.
AllSides. A helpful site for examining the political biases of different news outlets. Includes a user-checked Media Bias Rating system and up-to-date coverage of contemporary, contentious issues.
CTRL-F. A helpful YouTube channel hosted by Prof. Mike Caulfield (@holden on Twitter), on fake news, journalism, and up-to-date web literacies. He also self-published the excellent, open-access textbook Web Literacy for Student Fact-checkers.
Wikipedia. Despite its reputation by being editable by anyone, Wikipedia has a number of complex mechanisms for maintaining itself including policies that require source verification. It’s not perfect, but is often a much better starting point for research than many people assume.
On the Media. An excellent weekly 50-min podcast on WNYC that discusses all things media related and how current events are covered. I especially appreciate its historical perspectives and accessible interviews with scholars who have a variety of expertise.
Q: Into the Storm (2021, HBO). This is a 6-episode mini-series about the rise of Q-Anon. The documentary explores the platforms, propagators, and users that spread arguably the most harmful conspiracy theory and one that led to the storming of the capital on January 6.
Four Hours at the Capital (2021, HBO). A harrowing look at the effects of fake news and selectively mediated realities through the capital riots that took place at the start of 2021.
Agents of Chaos (2021, HBO). A documentary about the 2016 election and Russia’s role in interfering through web-based propaganda, including troll farms that spread fake, polarizing news.
The American Meme (2021, Netflix). A deep dive into the lives of social media influencers who often curate perception through likes, follows, and shares in the pursuit of profit.
After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News (2020, HBO & YouTube). This doc is broken into several case studies of misinformation, including Pizzagate (which has morphed into the bizarrely prolific and problematic conspiracy theories of QAnon).
The Great Hack (2019, Netflix). A doc that explains how the data we input on the social web is used without our knowledge, control, and often against our own interests, as told through the the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
The Social Dilemma (2020, Netflix). Taking perhaps a wider view than The Great Hack, this doc details the pernicious effects of social media regarding addiction and mental health, surveillance, and the distribution of fake news.
Digital Disconnect (2018, Kanopy). Doc on Kanopy, which is free to libraries, based on the book by communications professor Robert McChesney. He drives the narrative, providing a historic look at fake news, surveillance, and other the problems with the web and new media.