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Misinformation vaccine

Lessons learned from U Honors College students’ yearlong investigation into misinformation.

Look for these students on an episode of U Rising with President Ruth V. Watkins on May 14, 2020.

The school year may be over, but 10 Honors College students hope their work will continue to make an impact. The group spent the 2019-20 school year in an Honors College Praxis Lab called, “Truth, Deception, and Information Disorder." They spent the fall semester researching manipulated video, false information, social media policies and more. In the spring, they launched a three-pronged approach to raising awareness of media literacy and disinformation. Here are the results:

1. University of Utah public awareness campaign 

  • More than 700 contest entries
    • 28% correctly completed a puzzle of terms relating to misinformation
    • 33% incorrectly assumed a photo taken in France was taken in Palestine
    • 44% incorrectly guessed the definition of “disinformation”
  • A first-ever special misinformation issue of The Utah Daily Chronicle resulted in more than 2,200 views

Test your knowledge of misinformation here.

“No matter the changes we encountered—including classes moving online, dealing with earthquakes and aftershocks, moving out of dorms and changing housing arrangements—we remained dedicated to our goal of spreading awareness around misinformation,” said Kate Button, a junior honors student majoring in English.


2. Middle school education campaign

  • A five-module course on misinformation is now available via the Utah Education Network, making it available to thousands of teachers and homeschooling parents
  • About 20 students from Dixon Junior High learned about misinformation during a 30-minute on-campus workshop
  • The students presented their five-module course to educators at the Utah Coalition for Educational Technology conference

“In designing our class projects, we wanted to create something that would have an impact beyond our classroom and also have a life beyond this academic year.”

-Praxis Final Report


3. Pledge for election integrity

  • 10 of the 17 candidates still in the Utah gubernatorial race at the time of the project signed the pledge

“It was frustrating to see misinformation spread and not be able to do anything to stop it,” said Sydnee Kay, a junior honors student majoring in international studies and political science. “For that reason, it was so satisfying to create a project to combat misinformation.”

Tools for spotting misinformation

  • Websites that specialize in fact-checking statements made both on and offline.
  • Check the method.
    • Did the journalist interview someone themselves? Or did they use information from another news source?
    • Is it an opinion article?
    • Is the author’s full name listed, or is it a username?

“The significance of our project is very important to me as I really want to productively address the problems within our society,” said Mario Gonzalez, a sophomore honors student majoring in film and media arts. “This class is something really important to me and I hope it will be important outside of the class as well.”

To learn more, visit the project website here.