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How false news can spread - Noah Tavlin

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In previous decades, most news with global reach came from several major newspapers and networks with the resources to gather information directly. The speed with which information spreads now, however, has created the ideal conditions for something called circular reporting. Noah Tavlin sheds light on this phenomenon.

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  • Educator Noah Tavlin
  • Animator Patrick Smith
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
The term “circular reporting” likely originated in the government and military intelligence community, where ascertaining the validity of information is absolutely critical when there is misinformation intentionally being spread and leaked by one’s opposition. This paper goes into greater detail about how the military intelligence community deals with circular reporting.

Sometimes, false information can spread so widely that it becomes accepted as true. For example, the Coati, a relative of the raccoon, native to Brazil, has become alternatively known as “the Brazilian Aardvark.” This blog post details ten of the biggest Wikipedia hoaxes to date.

While Wikipedia has high-risk potential to be a source of misinformation—and has been such in the past—its community of editors has become more and more vigilant about catching un-cited or biased edits to pages before they are widely read. For example, last year, Wikipedia announced that people paid to edit Wikipedia pages had to disclose this publicly. However, it’s not always so simple to catch suspicious Wikipedia editors. Even Congress does it.

The example of the British Journal of Medicine publishing an annual issue of sarcastic articles raises an even larger ethical debate. Does a medical journal have a responsibility not to deviate from its format? Do all publications have this responsibility? This article in The Atlantic explores this issue.

Why do we sometimes believe what we read or hear, even when we shouldn’t? There is a psychological explanation.

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About TED-Ed Originals

TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Noah Tavlin
  • Animator Patrick Smith
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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