Move 2: Going upstream

Going upstream

Going upstream means following a piece of content to its true source, and beginning your analysis there. Your first question when looking at a claim on a page should be “Where did this come from, and who produced it?” The answer quite often has very little to do with the website you are looking at.

Chapter 10 of Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers

As we know from our lesson on the economics of post-truth, much of the web is predicated on making money from users’ clicks. For this reason, content on the web is often recycled, repurposed, or just plain plagiarized and stolen from other, more original sources (you might remember from the Daily podcast that that’s how Mad World News got started). Ad revenue, after all, is generated from clicks — not readers.

And even when original content is found it is sometimes sprinkled with more dubious sponsored content — that is, headlines or articles that appear legit but are actually paid for by advertisers. This can vary by platform. Here’s a screenshot from my Philly.com iPad app, for example. Do you notice the article with a tiny SPONSORED CONTENT heading?

So going upstream can be necessary or helpful for uncovering moments when web writing is simply presenting “reporting on reporting,” offering “syndicated content,” or a story is uncontrollably viral. But what does going upstream specifically entail? How might you make use of it in your first post? Some strategies might include:

  • Following links to sources when they are provided.
  • Googling sources or phrases from a text using the right-click search option when they are not.
  • Scanning search results for URLs — not titles.
  • Executing advanced search commands like site searches (“site:”)

Finding facts and practicing the first two moves

It’s one thing to encounter statements of fact in the classroom and quite another to go out and find them on your own. But alas that’s what I’m asking you to do for homework.

Activity: In your assigned group, use your knowledge from the first unit and Buzzsumo, a search engine that tracks and ranks viral content based on the number of shares from social media, to find a source that we should be fact-checking. Complete the fields in this Fact-check Examples Google Doc, which prepare you to draft a fact-check in WordPress.

As you approach your assigned topic, your group might ask how these topics introduced us to certain kinds of misinformation or methods of circulation and you might browse or search Buzzsumo for relevant topics. You might also draw from the examples we read about and discussed in each lesson in Unit 1 asking question like these:

  • Group 1: What sources need checking in the context of demagoguery?
  • Group 2: What kinds of clickbait are worth investigating and why?
  • Group 3: What conspiracies are floating around right now?
  • Group 4: Which texts about lifestyle choices (health, diet, vices, exercise) attempt to confirm our choices and therefore our biases?
  • Group 5: What particular platforms or media lend themselves to the spread of misinformation?

Remember that DigiPo defines a fact as “something that is generally not disputed by people in a position to know who can be relied on to accurately tell the truth.” Given this definition, which facts on our table might be easier to check than others? What would you have to know or do in order to go about checking this fact?

Posting in WordPress

As the homework notes below, you’ll be adding your first post to your WordPress site. By now you should have:

  • created and designed your own WordPress site,
  • added your site’s unique URL to our spreadsheet,
  • added an About Me page and included an image

Let’s end today by reviewing your questions and adding your first post.


Homework for Tuesday, 2/26

Read Caulfield 12-15.

Fact-check #1: research a political claim that is presented as a statement of fact. Your post should proceed by doing the following:

  1. Describe how you encountered the article in a few sentences.
  2. Summarize the article in a few sentences.
  3. Investigate the claim in 2-3 ¶s using Caulfield’s first 2 moves: looking for previous work and going upstream.

Added Fri, 2/22 → Bonus points if you can connect your post to Roberts-Miller’s chapter on demagoguery from the first unit.

Your post should also:

  • be titled concisely and accurately (i.e. “Fact-check #1: Pelosi claims Jussie Smollett is innocent?”)
  • include 2-3 embedded links to sites you refer to in your discussion (embedded like this, NOT like this: https://www.codeinwp.com/blog/wordpress-gutenberg-guide/)
  • embed at least one image, tweet, video, sound clip, or some other non-textual feature.
  • make use of some of the formatting features: bullets, headings, quotations, etc.