Coming soon to be a lie detector for social media

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University researchers are trying to create a system to identify false information circulating on social media. Could this be the end of rumors on Facebook and Twitter?
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“Social networks are a gold mine in terms of information and relevant citizen expressions but can also be used to spread rumors. To sort it out, researchers are working on a sort of lie detector active on Twitter or Facebook. An ambitious project which, according to the New York Times, could materialize in eighteen months. ”
Source: The Parisian
The following activities will help to understand the importance of checking out information sources on social media.


At the end of the activities, the student will be able to:
- Analyze pieces of information published on Facebook and determine the validity of the sources;
- Reflect on the importance of verifying the source of information on social media;
- Understand that lies on social media can have far-reaching consequences;
- Discover various hoaxes that have marked history and their consequences;
- Prepare a hoax for a member of the school staff.

Suggested Activities

ACTIVITY 1: Think before you click and share

First, ask students about their information sharing habits on Facebook. Do they always verify the source of information before sharing it?
Download the following accompanying document. Ask students if they would share the five items presented in this handout on Facebook.

Click on the image to enlarge.
Download the source file in ActivInspire (.flp) format
Download the file in PDF format (.pdf)

Here are the five elements, taken from Facebook.

Click on the image to enlarge.

For each item, ask students if they:
- Click on "I like" "?
- Write a comment?
- Share information?
Ask them to explain why they would or would not choose to do these actions.
Finally, discuss the importance of analyzing the quality of news sources on social media. You can present the following article to the students to make them think about the consequences of not validating the sources of information.
Animal carcass photo: Canada Goose and the photographer set the record straight
Radio-Canada article, January 30, 2012

ACTIVITY 2: A lie detector in preparation

Now tell the students that researchers are developing a system to identify lies circulating on social media. Invite them to read the following article to find out what it is exactly.
Researchers work on social media lie detector
La Presse, February 19, 2014
Then ask the following questions:
- What is the goal of the PHEME program?
- How many universities are working together on the project?
- What are the four types of information that the project must identify?
- What are the three factors that will be used to assess the veracity of the data?
- When should the first version of this lie detector be available?

ACTIVITY 3: The greatest hoaxes in history

Rumors, urban legends and hoaxes are not recent phenomena. There have always been big lies throughout history.
So invite students to discover the greatest hoaxes in history by consulting this MSN article.
Then have them pick one of these hoaxes and research that event more thoroughly. They will ultimately have to summarize this lie and the effects it has caused in the population using a medium of their choice.

For further

April 1 is fast approaching. As a whole class, prepare a hoax or a joke (nice, anyway!) To give to a member of the school staff. You could invite the other classes to participate in the joke.
Film the reaction of the trapped person and, with their permission only, share your joke on YouTube or social media.

More about the magazine

Beware of false rumors on social media
Triplex blog post (Radio-Canada), 1er february 2012
April Fool's Day - Biggest Hoaxes
LeDEFIMEDIA Group, 1er april 2012

SCOOP! this is...

Designed to fill short periods or inspire larger projects, the activities offered in the SCOOP! allow the teacher to approach the subject matter in the program in addition to developing the information literacy and digital skills of the students.

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