March 26, 2019

Let's Teach Kids to Identify Fake News

“Here’s a New Year’s resolution — let’s teach 1 million teenagers how to spot fake news online by 2020.

Achieving this objective is vital in keeping our republic the strongest in the world. 2019 must be the year that we stop ignoring that our democracy, while still the standard, is becoming ill and requires our attention.

That’s why this year MediaWise, which is funded by Google.org, will be teaching a new generation of kids to become skilled evaluators of digital content.

And it’s truly needed — the data and anecdotal evidence reads like a poor medical screening.

How bad is it?

Manipulated photos and videos flood social media, hoaxers are able to compete with legitimate news sources, and foreign countries are attacking our country with disinformation. It’s no wonder teens are so confused as to what to believe online.

It has reached a chronic level, too. In a 2016 study from Stanford University, researchers evaluated students’ ability to assess information sources. The researchers described the results as “dismaying,” “bleak” and “[a] threat to democracy.”

MediaWise wants to change this, though. As part of the Google News Initiative, it aims to teach 1 million teenagers how to spot fake news on the internet by 2020, with at least half of them coming from underserved or low-income communities.

“If misinformation on the internet is a disease,” says Katy Byron, editor and program manager of MediaWise, “then MediaWise is like the Red Cross.””

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