Awareness key to fighting fake news

Noel Achariam

News Literacy Project founder Alan Miller says people must be taught how to to be discerning when it comes to consuming information. – The Malaysian Insight pic, October 23, 2018.

WHILE people unknowingly spread fake news on social media, the key to combating it is creating awareness among users to know what is credible and what is not, said News Literacy Project (NLP) founder Alan Miller.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter said the rise of social media has increased the speed and volume of the flow of all information, as well as the amount of opinion as opposed to facts, creating the avenue for fake news.

For example, 4.3 million videos are viewed on YouTube, 18 million text messages are shared and 375,000 apps are downloaded daily, he said.

“Amid all of this traffic, there is no barrier to entry to those who seek to mislead, deceive or exploit,” he said at a media briefing in Washington recently on media literacy and combating misinformation organised by the Foreign Press Centre.

Miller said in this flawed information landscape, combatting hoaxes and conspiracy theories and misinformation falls to the public to be discerning what they are consuming, creating and sharing.

“They should stop and ask themselves if they should believe the information they are getting before sharing it.

“The press is also essential as a watchdog to check their accuracy and help inform the public.”

Miller said fake news has created one of the great challenges, not only for the United States, but the world.

“The only way to combat it is by calling for a concerted educational effort to inoculate future generations from becoming infected.”

The NLP aims to empower middle school and high school students with the tools to be informed and engaged participants in a democracy in the digital age.

Among their key ways to do this is through Checkology, their virtual classroom and NewsLitCamps, which bring scores of educators into a newsroom for a day of professional development led by their staff and journalists.

“We want to give them the ability to know what news and information to trust, share and act on as students, consumers and citizens.

“This platform can be used in any country by educators.”

False news is 70% more likely to be tweeted than true stories by ordinary citizens, says a study. – EPA pic, October 23, 2018.

NLP developed the Checkology software to teach students about news literacy.

According to Miller, a study of the news literacy skills of nearly 8,000 middle school, high school and college students in the US done by the Stanford History Education Group and released in 2016 found that the students were “easily duped” and ill-equipped to navigate online images and information.

A survey of 19,000 adults also found that most Americans believe that an era of unprecedented access to information hasn’t left the public feeling more informed, he said.

“People must be made aware on what is shared on social media and pausing to check if its credible information and if it responsible to share it.

“The key comes back again to education. Making people aware and checking the facts.”

A more recent study of Twitter by researchers at MIT found that rumours travel the internet much faster, further, deeply and widely than true stories.

Miller said the researchers tracked more than 126,000 stories touched by about three million people from the social network’s founding in 2006 through 2017.

“What they found is false news is 70% more likely to be tweeted than true stories by ordinary citizens.

“It takes true stories about six times longer than false stories to reach 1,500 people.

“True stories rarely reach more than 1,000 people. The top 1% of false stories are routinely shared by 1,000 to 100,000 people.” 

The News Literacy Project is a national education non-profit offering non-partisan, independent programmes that teach students how to know what to believe in the digital age. – October 23, 2018.

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