March 14 2022, 14:47 pm

NYT Op-Ed: Media Literacy Classes Can Help to Create a More Disinformation-Resistant Public

US media is report­ing that media lit­er­a­cy class­es that teach stu­dents to look at the whole ecosys­tem in which the infor­ma­tion resides might serve as a pow­er­ful tool to cre­ate a more dis­in­for­ma­tion-resis­tant pub­lic. Accord­ing to an op-ed pub­lished by the New York Times:

March 7, 2022 Giv­en the dif­fi­cul­ty of reg­u­lat­ing every online post, espe­cial­ly in a coun­try that pro­tects most forms of speech, it seems far more pru­dent to focus most of our efforts on build­ing an edu­cat­ed and resilient pub­lic that can spot and then ignore dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns. Over the past five years, Fin­land has become one of the world’s lead­ers in dis­in­for­ma­tion edu­ca­tion. High school stu­dents there are giv­en a series of polit­i­cal top­ics and asked to com­pile lists of sto­ries and com­men­tary from across the inter­net. They’re then tasked with inves­ti­gat­ing the verac­i­ty of claims. In some schools, even ele­men­tary school stu­dents are giv­en a “tool kit” that pro­vides them with ways to spot dubi­ous infor­ma­tion online. A poten­tial­ly use­ful out­lier is Esto­nia, a coun­try that has rough­ly the pop­u­la­tion of San Diego. In 2010, after years of polit­i­cal tur­moil and a wide-rang­ing series of cyber­at­tacks, the gov­ern­ment of Esto­nia decid­ed to man­date media lit­er­a­cy edu­ca­tion for all of its pub­lic school stu­dents. Ele­men­tary and mid­dle school stu­dents are taught, for exam­ple, how online con­tent is cre­at­ed and how sta­tis­tics can be manip­u­lat­ed. In high school, lessons about social media, trolls, the dif­fer­ence between fact and opin­ion and cri­te­ria for good sources help stu­dents become more crit­i­cal thinkers.  All this seems promis­ing, espe­cial­ly when you con­sid­er that Esto­nia, a rel­a­tive­ly poor coun­try, has media lit­er­a­cy rates that sur­pass those of much wealth­i­er coun­tries like Ger­many and Sweden.

Read the rest here.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report has pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed on var­i­ous defen­sive efforts to build resilience against dis­in­for­ma­tion, including:

  • How Esto­nia is orga­niz­ing cul­tur­al cours­es such as cook­ing class­es to inte­grate the Russ­ian-speak­ing pop­u­la­tion in Esto­nia to make them less sus­cep­ti­ble to pro­pa­gan­da from Russia
  • How Lithuan­ian media lit­er­a­cy projects made the Lithuan­ian pop­u­la­tion less sus­cep­ti­ble to Russ­ian disinformation
  • How Ukraini­ans with stronger ana­lyt­ic rea­son­ing skills are bet­ter insu­lat­ed against Russ­ian propaganda

Media lit­er­a­cy pro­grams to decrease vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions have been pro­mot­ed and rec­om­mend­ed by pri­vate and pub­lic actors such as Facebook’s par­ent com­pa­ny Meta, the Euro­pean Lib­er­al Par­ty, and NATO.


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