The Longmont Library will host a lecture on media literacy in an effort to educate people on how to spot fake news.

Josie Brockmann, reference librarian and adult program manager, said combating false news stories meshes with the library's mission.

"Libraries have historically been involved in, and pursued a mission of educating the public," Brockmann said. "And that means sifting through information and finding what information is the highest quality."

The library opened registration to adults and teens to the Feb. 2 lecture on Jan. 3 and by Friday morning, the program had filled up with about 100 people registered.

Kent Willmann, a professor at University of Colorado , will give the lecture.

Willmann will "examine what's behind the sudden wave of fake news, offer some fake news samples and provide techniques designed to limit the effect of fake news on the public and students," according to a library news release.

Even though the lecture is full, Brockmann said it will be video-recorded and put up on Longmont's YouTube channel after about two weeks.

The rise of fake news

Fake news began gaining traction in the real news toward the end of the presidential campaign after FBI Director James Comey announced he was reopening the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email server. Additionally, WikiLeaks released a cache of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta's emails.


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Users on sites such as Reddit.com began to spin conspiracy theories using what they thought were codewords in the emails.

This eventually led to #pizzagate, in which conspiracy theorists convinced themselves that Clinton's team was involved in a secret child-sex-ring centered around a D.C. pizza restaurant. The theory has been disproven.

Edgar Welch drove from North Carolina to Washington D.C. to see for himself if the rumors were true. He brought along an assault-style rifle and searched the restaurant, according to The Washington Post. Welch was arrested and no one was injured.

At the same time, other people were creating false news stories and sharing them on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. N PR tracked down an L.A. man who owns Disinfomedia and several fake news sites including DenverGuardian.com.

Jestin Coler told NPR that he had between 20 and 25 writers coming up with fake news for financial gain and to illustrate how easily fake news spreads. One of Coler's writers came up with the viral fake story headlined "FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide." The fake news story was shared over half a million times on Facebook, NPR reported.

NPR also reported in November that Stanford Graduate School of Education researchers asked middle school, high school and college students in 12 states to evaluate information presented in tweets, comments and articles.

The researchers found that many high school students couldn't tell real news from fake news on Facebook and most Stanford students couldn't distinguish between a mainstream and fringe source, among other findings.

Fake news again made headlines when President Donald Trump gave a news conference last week. Trump was denying reports published by Buzzfeed and CNN. When CNN reporter Jim Acosta implored Trump to allow him to ask a question, Trump shouted him down.

"Y ou are fake news," Trump told Acosta at the Jan. 11 news conference.

Karen Antonacci: 303-684-5226, antonaccik@times-call.com or twitter.com/ktonacci