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“That’s Old News!” The Harm in Sharing Outdated News Articles

Credit: Adam Killick/CBC

News Analysis by Jessica Sandre and Gemanna Gomez

Recycled, outdated news stories are yet another threat to news consumers–especially if they get their news on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

According to an article by Kayleigh Rogers of the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), legitimate stories published years ago are resurfacing and being passed off as current news. How does this happen? Well, when an older article is shared on social media sites, the date is often left out, which misleads the reader and make the story appear new.

“Taking something that’s true and taking it out of context can change its meaning, and can cause people to be misinformed…This is different from fake news, but still misleading,” stated Jonathan Anzalone, assistant director of Stonybrook University’s Center for News Literacy. 

The article offers several examples of consumers sharing or commenting on articles that were over five years old without checking the publication date. Even though these stories are legitimate and not “fake news,” they were taken out of context and misleading.

Case in point: a resurrected story about corruption involving the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Originally published in 2014, the article was shared on social media earlier this year leading some people to correlate the misconduct with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and “his band of thieves,” as one person commented on the re-shared story. According to the CBC, even the United Conservative Movement of Canada’s Facebook group shared the story without mentioning that the original article was written five years ago.

Despite being published in 2014, this story posted on CBC News has been shared on social media over the last few weeks. (Screengrab/CBC News)

Sometimes it’s clear that people re-post an old story by mistake, usually because they failed to check the date or actually read the story. But the recirculation of old articles can also be intentional. The president of another Facebook group that shared the same police corruption story, Dan Dubois, explained he was aware it was an old article but decided to post it anyway, arguing although it may be outdated, it was “still relevant” to the current political climate in Canada.

Takeaway: Always check the date at the top of news stories, especially those that appear on social media sites. When in doubt, use lateral reading to verify that the information is current and accurate before you share it.. As Anzalone states: “We should take some responsibility for actually checking the date ourselves. That seems to be our minimum responsibility.”

 

By Gemanna Gomez and Jessica Sandre