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Opinion: Instructing fact-checking will not suffice in battle in opposition to pretend information

Media literacy packages must be encouraging folks to query themselves simply as a lot as content material.

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Our method to combating pretend information is all incorrect.

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After I was a instructor, folks usually instructed me, “we’ve got this nice media literacy program” or “we simply want to show folks the details and methods to discover them” or “if solely we might assist our college students assume critically about what they learn on-line.” And I hold listening to related feedback now that I’m a media scholar.

I applaud the optimism of those that assume these packages will succeed. The issue is, this method overlooks simply how particular person our interpretations of the world are.

Media literacy has been on provincial schooling curriculums for greater than 20 years, and but pretend information and disinformation are flourishing. Not too long ago, a report got here out exhibiting that 44 per cent of Canadians consider in a conspiracy idea. That’s nearly half of our inhabitants.

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However the concern isn’t simply conspiracy idea. Extra broadly, public concern over pretend information has continually led to calls to defund the CBC, which sure Conservative Celebration members like Pierre Poilievre have been outspoken about. The harassment of journalists attempting to report on the Freedom Convoy protests this previous February additionally appeared to be proof of a rising lack of belief in Canadian media.

This lack of belief isn’t essentially spontaneous. It may also be a results of actions designed to just do that. For instance, the Canadian authorities has proven concern about Russian disinformation, the place false data can have a world affect.

This may be scary, and once we ask what might be performed, a standard reply is media literacy, which is all about our capability to grasp the accuracy of a information story. How will we search for bias? How do we all know what data is correct or incorrect? Whom ought to we belief?

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Our present media literacy method appears logical. We educate folks methods to truth examine content material, we provide sources and we encourage residents to assume critically about media. Nonetheless, this method relies  on a flawed premise: that for those who educate folks what steps to take, how the method will work, and the way they need to assume, they’ll all come to the identical conclusion. However we all know this isn’t the case. Way back to 1938 when Orson Welles’s radio present about aliens invading the USA led to some public hysteria that it was truly occurring, we knew that folks interpret data otherwise. We see this in debates with households or buddies the place, it doesn’t matter what data you present, opinions are set, beliefs solidified, and it’ll take greater than a ranting cousin to alter a perspective.

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We will provide the details and the instruments to confirm them; however none of this modifications the core downside that folks interpret data primarily based on their worldview. Not too long ago, a research on conspiracy theorists confirmed that they used fact-checking practices related to what’s being taught to show their level.

Proper now vital pondering and media literacy is targeted on content material, however we want packages and analysis that embody a deal with the folks. We must be encouraging folks to query themselves simply as a lot as content material. Our media diets must be various and our personal beliefs open to growth.

We shouldn’t cease educating fact-checking abilities, however we additionally want to show folks to have an open and self-reflective dialogue with the data they arrive throughout. Asking why we consider sure issues, why others appear to belief one thing totally different than us — these habits can assist us uncover our personal biases and interpretations of content material. I’m not saying to disregard our beliefs, however to maintain them versatile.

I hope that media literacy packages start to deal with understanding our personal beliefs reasonably than totally on fact-checking abilities. And I encourage Canadians to do the identical.

Scott DeJong is a PhD scholar in communications at Concordia College and a Concordia Public Scholar.

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