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‘Cat in the Stacks: Tackling Fake News

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I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Memorial Library’s role


It’s become impossible to scroll one’s Twitter feed, check Facebook or browse a news website without coming across the phrase “fake news.” It’s a highly politicized term with both sides accusing the other of relying on fake news as sources. Usually, I would steer clear of such a conversation here on the Falvey blog, but this phenomenon has become so connected with our mission here at the library that I cannot help but discuss it.

InfoWarsA fake news site that became infamous during the 2016 election for its story about Washington pizza shop scandals.

Fake news goes against our mission at the Library in three primary ways. First, fake news generally has an agenda that promotes the marginalization of a particular group. Second, fake news websites lure Internet browsers in with the promise of a story, only to peddle false information to them and take their information for advertisers. Lastly, and perhaps most succinctly put, fake news sites lie to their visitors.

The agenda behind most fake news sites is political and economic. These sites hope to shock and appall you concerning the beliefs of the opposite party than your own. Their end game is financial profit. The business model is fairly simple; the more people who visit the site, the more advertisers will pay for space.

The ethical problem with this model is that it takes advantage of an already marginalized group – the under-educated. This ethical violation goes against the mission of all libraries. While we understand that the vast majority of our visitors attend Villanova and would not fall under the category of “under-educated,” this predation on a certain group of people is an affront to the mission of all libraries.

Liberty Writers NewsA fake news site known for an aggressive and often violent rhetoric.

Beyond the circulation of books, libraries seek to promote the inclusive and free sharing of knowledge. I would like to take the present post to emphasize and reaffirm the Falvey Memorial Library’s commitment to this mission. Whether your research takes you through the stacks or clicking through our many databases, we offer you a non-judgmental physical or cyber space to become informed about the topics that inspire you.

Moreover, in your browsing, we remain committed to protecting your privacy. While these fake news sites aggregate your data and sell it to advertising agencies, we guarantee a private browsing space free from advertisements. The outside world seems increasingly intent on infringing on your privacy; here at the Falvey, we are committed to protecting it.

Perhaps most egregiously among the ethical breaches of fake news is the fact that they grow on the promulgation of lies to their visitors. Here at Falvey we believe that growth should come on the strength of factual information that promotes genuine interest and advanced literacy. From top to bottom, our staff remains committed to this end, despite current political happenings.

Fake News MemeListen to the world’s most interesting man; listen to him. (Courtesy of imgflip.com)

Typically, I save this blog for philosophical or aesthetic musings about college life and the Villanova experience. Given the immensity of the fake news problem though, I thought it important to be forthcoming with you this week and reinforce our authentic image for our mission and goals as we all adjust to an increasingly turbulent political landscape.


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Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.

 

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2 Comments »

  1. Comment by allie — March 1, 2017 @ 3:24 PM

    Good blog!

  2. Comment by Judy — March 3, 2017 @ 4:56 PM

    I’m glad you addressed this issue. Important for all to know about the good information resources accessible via Falvey.

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Last Modified: March 1, 2017