LSU Offers Online Resource to Fight Coronavirus Fake News
April 30, 2020
BATON ROUGE— LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication professor Leonard Apcar and three LSU students are leading a fight against fake news about the coronavirus by creating an online educational resource for the public.
Apcar, a professional-in-residence at the Manship School, relaunched detectfakenews.com, a resource guide on the latest developments in fake news, disinformation and foreign interference in the nation’s information flows, earlier this year. Now, he and international studies freshman Madison Latiolais, microbiology junior Grayce Mores and political communication master’s student Trey Poché have expanded the website to become a one-stop aggregator for the latest news, research and analysis pertaining to coronavirus misinformation.
"Our goal is to be a curator of the best work about coronavirus misinformation," said Apcar, a former New York Times editor who leads the Manship’s School’s efforts to detect and combat fake news.
Information that incites fear can spread quickly and have a greater impact on existing anxiety and uncertainty, especially in a crisis. The website debunks numerous false COVID-19 claims, including the pandemic’s origins and the effectiveness of social distancing, that are spread through social media platforms.
Apcar and his students also created a fact-checking guide to help the public identify fake news about the coronavirus. The steps include checking the headline, verifying the source, identifying biases and more.
“Being skeptical is key,” said Poché, who helps curate the website. “It is important to suspend belief and think about who/what the source is and what political goals they may have in sharing that piece of information. If in doubt, navigate directly to .gov websites.”
As part of his course on media manipulation this semester, Apcar encouraged over 20 LSU Ogden Honors College students from all majors to examine how social media, digital technology and polarization in American life have impacted public opinion about the coronavirus.
"The website was created with a broader mission to continue looking at many different forms of fake news and misinformation, and how to detect them,” said Apcar, who holds LSU’s Wendell Gray Switzer Jr. Endowed Chair in Media Literacy.
Apcar created detectfakenews.com three years ago and relaunched it in February. Its mission is to serve as a resource for students, academics and citizens to defend themselves against fake news and misinformation. The website aims to be a singular resource looking at manipulated media and fakes in the upcoming 2020 election cycle.
LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication ranks among the strongest collegiate communication programs in the country, with its robust emphasis on media and public affairs. It offers undergraduate degreesin public relations, journalism, political communication, digital advertising and pre-law, along with four graduate degree programs: Master of Mass Communication, Ph.D. in Media and Public Affairs, certificate of Strategic Communication, and dual MMC/Law degree. Its public relations students were recently ranked the #1 team in the nation, and its digital advertising and student media teams frequently earn national recognition.