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Media Literacy

Teach media literacy in schools to combat misinformation on digital platforms


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The latest statement from a Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen in the US Senate did not reveal much information that most observers of the current misinformation crisis would not have suspected. Instead, her statement highlighted the depth of the misinformation crisis that was accelerating Facebook. Her testimony was notable for her specificity and clarity in presenting the problem and calling for action.

It remains to be seen whether political leaders who have been slow to grasp the problem will take up the cloak and propose regulations to deal with the misinformation crisis. With many US counties explanatory Medical misinformation creates a public health crisis due to rising COVID deaths and misinformation from electoral fraud that is increasing 6th January Attempted coup, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

One step towards solving this problem is to introduce media literacy as a compulsory addition to school curricula. This would enable the next generation to be better consumers of information. Media literate people can better decipher media messages they receive, apply critical thinking, and tell the difference between real journalism and propaganda.

In the past few decades the traditional news media model has collapsed and digital platforms have increasingly played a significant role in the media market. This includes the more traditional message formats, but also memes, viral videos and social media posts. Young people are increasingly taking up information on these platforms. Improving their media literacy would enable them to be more confident about the information they are interacting with and to think critically about the source of the information. It would also teach them to differentiate between journalism, opinion, sponsored content, and propaganda.

Media literacy is the indispensable addition to social studies for the digital age. As Thomas Jefferson called, “An educated citizenship is a vital requirement for our survival as a free people.” We know from our lived experience that misinformation weakens democracy. Politicians can use misinformation as a weapon to stir up resentment and fake cultural wars while undermining social norms.

Facebook insiders are sounding the alarm that the company puts profits above people. Some have argued that the burden of detecting misinformation lies with the users of these platforms. They say that social media platforms simply provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas, they say. This argument ignores the role these platforms play in spreading malicious content.

Facebook algorithms amplify content designed to arouse strong emotions such as outrage in order to keep users busy. Users are not well equipped to deal with sophisticated algorithms designed to trigger their emotions. Media literacy alone will not solve this problem, but it is a critical step in combating the crisis.

Digital platforms like Facebook have proven unwilling or unable to take the right security precautions to curb the spread of misinformation. Politicians have also shown a lack of political will and failed to enact regulations to bring about real change. In the face of this inaction, the least we can do as a society is to equip the next generation with the tools and skills they need to face the deluge of misinformation that we know they are grappling with.


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