Civic Coffee Recap: Identifying Accurate Information

presenters at Age Friendly Civic Coffee that focused on how to tell the difference between real and fake information online

On March 19, 2024, Age Friendly Seattle collaborated with the Chinese Information and Service Center to present a Civic Coffee panel discussion on enhancing digital literacy. Panelists Andrea Otáñez, a University of Washington teaching professor, and Di Zhang, a librarian at Renton Technical College, discussed methods to identify accurate information online and provided insights and tools to assist in verifying the credibility of online information.

Di is passionate about promoting digital citizenship and informational literacy. He developed The Fake News Survival Guide, a curriculum on news literacy originally taught at The Seattle Public Library that is now been used by educators and librarians throughout Washington State.

Andrea draws upon her background as an editor and columnist at prominent news organizations such as The Seattle Times and The Salt Lake Tribune to enrich her teaching as a professor in the Public Interest Communication Program at the University of Washington.

Di defined information literacy as the ability to recognize when you need information and exhibit the skills to locate and access relevant information while being able to critically evaluate it. This is a vital skill in this digital age where we have access to a great deal of information.

Andrea highlighted the important distinction between disinformation and misinformation: Disinformation is the spread of inaccurate information that can be done mistakenly by anyone, while misinformation is the manipulation of information with the intent to confuse others.

A few topics where older adults may be more susceptible to potential misinformation include health, crime, and financial issues. This raises the importance of looking at multiple sources of information to identify its accuracy. Andrea emphasized the importance of taking a minute before resharing information online to avoid spreading false information to more people.

Di recommended seeking information from multiple sources, both to avoid the over-consumption of biased information and to gain different perspectives on topics. A helpful tool is AllSides, a news website and media bias rating platform that presents news stories from multiple perspectives.

A few strategies to help combat the spread of misinformation and disinformation from online sources include:

  • Lateral reading is the practice of verifying information by consulting multiple sources and considering different perspectives to gain a more comprehensive understanding.
  • On social media platforms, it is important to critically read posts before resharing. Sometimes headlines are deceiving.
  • If an article is about a local issue, check if the source is local and credible.
  • Use fact checking websites like Lead Stories to verify headlines and claims.

Andrea talked about another common way to fall victim to misinformation: Clickbait—a headline, topic, or photograph that triggers an emotional reaction from a reader, causing the reader to engage with the content by clicking on a link. Typically, clickbait exaggerates or sensationalizes the content of the linked page, often misleading users about the actual information they will find.

A screenshot of the Civic coffee recap video on YouTube.

Click on the image above to watch the Civic Coffee on March 19, 2024.

Andrea engaged the participants with the interactive Which Face is Real game, which displays two images of people—one that is computer-generated and the other that is a real photograph. In the first few rounds of the game, participants had a hard time recognizing which image was of a real person. As the game continued, participants noticed the patterns of computer-generated images. A few giveaways of manipulated images include unrealistic backgrounds, unnatural lighting, and distortions around the edges of objects or people in the image. This game demonstrated the importance of being able to spot manipulated images so that we reduce resharing misinformation on our personal social media platforms.

A rapidly evolving technology is Artificial Intelligence (AI), which can be another source of misinformation, like deepfakes—manipulated videos where a person’s face or body has been digitally altered to make them appear to be someone else. These videos are often created with malicious intent or to spread false information, which exemplifies the importance of using strategies to analyze information.

In today’s digital landscape, the ability to discern accurate information from misinformation is paramount. Both panelist’s insights underscored the significance of verifying online information sources and cultivating informational literacy.

Age Friendly Seattle thanks both panelists for this informative discussion on strategies to identify accurate information in our digital age and is grateful to the Chinese Information and Service Center for hosting the event.

View previous Civic Coffees on this YouTube playlist.

Stay connected with Age Friendly Seattle to learn about upcoming Civic Coffees and other events in 2024. Visit and bookmark Aging King County’s Age Friendly Live—Virtual Events webpage.

Fathima GarciaFathima Garcia is an intern with Age Friendly Seattle. She graduated from Seattle Central College with an associate degree in Business Administration in June 2023. Currently, she studies Human Resources Management at the University of Washington Foster School of Business.

This article appeared in the May 2024 issue of AgeWise King County.