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We love the internet! It's a wealth of information where we can learn about just about anything, but it's also kind of a pit of information that can be false or misleading. So, we're partnering with Mediawise and the Stanford History Education Group to make this series on Navigating Digital Information. Let's learn the facts about facts!

Special thanks to our partners from MediaWise who helped create this series:
The Poynter Institute
The Stanford History Education Group (sheg.stanford.edu)

MediaWise is supported by Google.

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Hello and welcome to Crash Course Navigating Digital information. My name is John Green, and you may know me from my various channels on YouTube, my all-caps Tweets about Liverpool Football Club, Q&As about my books on my website, or elsewhere on the internet. I spend a lot of time online. In fact, in some ways, I live here. The average American spends 24 hours per week online, but 1 in 4 U.S. adults say that they are online almost constantly. And I am among them. I love the internet! It contains so much helpful information, it connects us to each other, it allows more people to have a voice in public conversations. But of course the internet is also littered with misleading, sensationalized, and downright false information. So, okay, I only know two jokes. I'll tell the other one at the end of the series, but here's the first one, which was made famous by the American writer David Foster Wallace. Two young fish are swimming along one day when an older fish swims past and says, "Morning kids, how's the water?" The young fish just look at each other for a second and then swim on for a while. And then one says to the other, "What the heck is water?" Now, I am not the wise old fish of this enterprise. I am as susceptible to misleading information as anyone. I tend to focus on information that reinforces my preexisting worldview and to passively ingest all kinds of media while scrolling and swiping endlessly through my feeds. But I also think we ought to be suspicious of anyone who claims to be the wise old fish with some special understanding of what we're swimming in. Believing that you're immune to the seductions of false and misleading information is, if anything, a symptom of being influenced by false and misleading information. But I tell that joke for two reasons; first, because I need you to call me out if I start acting like the wise old fish; and second, to point out that much of what we're swimming in is new and strange, and we are still figuring it out together. So, for this series, Crash Course has teamed up with Media Wise, a project out of the Poynter Institute that was created with support from Google. 

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The Poynter Institute is a non-profit journalism school, and the goal of Mediawise is to teach students how to assess the accuracy of information they encounter online.

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Now I should note that there's a lot of information that is not available online and that is available at your library. Libraries continue to be incredibly valuable resources, but these days anyone can hop online and produce information via their personal website, or their social media, or their YouTube channel.

Well, actually, no. Access to digital devices and high-speed internet is still a real barrier to entry for many people, which means unequal access to information. It also means that while it can feel like everyone is participating in Facebook or Instagram, in fact, billions of people are not part of those conversations.

Still, the barrier for creating and retrieving information is much lower than it was a generation ago. Like, when I was a kid, if you wanted to share an opinion with the public, you wrote a letter to the newspaper and hoped they would publish it. There was no other way for a stranger to hear your story or your perspective. 

Furthermore, as you already know from the three DMs you've answered since you started this video, the Internet changed how we communicate. We can talk across time and space. We can connect across geographical and political boundaries, we can create organizations and communities, find people with similar interests, or we can lift people up when they feel alone.

But when information flows that freely, dangers are inevitable: misinformation (unintentionally incorrect information) and disinformation (information that's wrong on purpose) spread quickly online as do hate speech and propaganda.

Plus, we can easily create online worlds where we only see information we already agree with or that lines up with our point of view. For instance, if I only followed people on Twitter who were Team Blake, I would have been pretty blindsided when Garrett won The Bachelorette. And the same could be said for, you know, actual elections.

And because we use information for all kinds of decisions, misinformation and disinformation are really powerful. This is true for small everyday decisions, restaurant reviews affect where we eat... 

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...and for much larger issues, like choosing a college to attend or a place to work. The quality of our information directly shapes the quality of our decisions and the quality of our decisions, of course, shapes the quality of our shared experience as humans. 

So when we talk about "bad" or "questionable information" that includes "fake news"; the kind of news reporting that is totally false. Which is a huge problem, especially on social media and during breaking news events, and it's a problem across all political ideologies and perspectives. But we're not just talking about fake news, we're also talking about information that isn't credible because the author of that content isn't an authority on the topic. Take a blog of serious-sounding fitness tips from someone who loves gym selfies, but isn't qualified to give professional health advice. 

We're also talking about information that comes from writers or organizations that have something to lose from the whole truth, like a company that sells toasters creating "BestToasters.com" to publish lists of the "best" toasters, with their brand at the top of every list. Or friends who conveniently find videos that supposedly "prove" that "gif" is pronounced [wrong] (?~7:15) "gif" when you know that [wrong] "gif" (?~7:16) is pronounced "gif". 

But the thing is, quality of information lies on a spectrum. It's not a duality, good information and bad information. It is our job to evaluate the information that we receive, find out where it falls on that spectrum, and decide how to use it going forward. But as a species, we are not very good good at judging the quality of information on the internet. In fact, we've always been bad at it. 

In 2002, a study with over 2,000 participants reported that a website's design was the most frequently mentioned factor in judging a website's credibility. When asked to choose which of two sites was more credible, 46% of participants used the look of the website in their evaluations.

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