THE PROBLEM: This is America’s Media Literacy Week, which is hosted by the National Association for Media Education. As the association’s website explains, this week’s mission is to “highlight the power of media literacy and its essential role in education across the country”. The theme of the week Every day celebrates one of the five components of the definition of media literacy: Access, Analyze, Evaluate, Create and Act. The week is also celebrated by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, at which LNP | LancasterOnline is owned.
There is good news and there is bad news.
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center from July 26 to August 8, just under half (48%) of American adults report receiving news from social media “often” or “sometimes”.
This is clearly the bad news, especially since we now know from Facebook whistleblowers that the social media giant has done little to stem the deluge of harmful disinformation and disinformation that is flooding its platform. .
The good news: This 48%, worrying as it is, marks a drop of 5 percentage points from 2020. Hopefully this marks the start of a trend in the right direction. Because the lies and conspiracy theories that Facebook and other social media platforms are spreading have harmed our democracy, our health in this pandemic, and our children.
Anti-vaccination forces have armed Facebook to spread unwanted science and lies about safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. Supporters have shared conspiracy theories and lies about the 2020 presidential election in an attempt to undermine democracy. Facebook’s algorithms, particularly on Instagram (which it owns), have transmitted damaging information about diets and eating disorders to vulnerable children.
Lax laws allow social media giants like Facebook to escape the responsibility of maximizing profits at the expense of the public good. As we noted earlier this month, Facebook and other social media platforms are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects online platforms that post third-party content from legal liability. towards them. Thus, Facebook enjoys immunity even when it posts harmful content – and it is incentivized to continue posting that content because it generates profit.
Until Congress corrects this, it’s up to us to fight the spread of misinformation and misinformation on social media. And that’s where Media Literacy Week comes in.
School librarians and other educators are making great strides in teaching media literacy to students, and we greatly appreciate their efforts. They know that teaching children to be good citizens in 2021 is giving them the tools to assess what is right and what is wrong in the information they are bombarded with.
It starts with evaluating the information source itself.
What you are reading now is an op-ed, by definition an opinion piece – not a story. Opinion pages have always been a part of newspapers, but it has become more important than ever to ensure that they and other forms of commentary are clearly defined as opinions.
Opinion staff do not report the news. But LNP | LancasterOnline reporters report the news as objectively as possible, making this newspaper an essential source of information for people who want to know what is happening in Lancaster County.
Information and Opinion Services rigorously check content, as we are responsible for printing only accurate information. We take this responsibility seriously, so we correct mistakes when we make them, even when we are embarrassed that we have gone wrong. It is a measure of a news source’s credibility – its willingness to correct mistakes. Beware of any source that never admits its mistakes.
Here are some other ways to distinguish really trusted sources from unreliable and even harmful sources. We have offered these tips before, but they are worth repeating.
– Do not rely on one source. This is a fundamental rule of reporting – and it should also be a rule for news consumers.
– Choose reliable sources, such as newspapers like LNP | Lancaster online.
– Don’t share the latest news until the basics of the news have been confirmed. A responsible news organization will clarify if certain details are unconfirmed, but not less reliable sources. Remember that early reports, especially of large-scale tragedies, are often incomplete or erroneous.
– Read information critically: does that make sense? Is it supported by facts? Are the sources cited? Does the writer have a perceptible agenda? Is it clear who wrote or created it?
– Think before you share.
– Make sure you distinguish between opinion, satire and current affairs.
– Click on the “About” section of a website to verify who produces it. Increasingly, political organizations are launching websites that advertise themselves as local news sites but incorporate political messages.
– Beware of “deepfakes” – videos altered by the use of artificial intelligence. They are dangerous because they can appear real.
Harvard University Library offers these additional suggestions:
– “Consider the source. Weird domain names or websites that end in “lo” are signs you should be wary of. “
– “Look for visual clues: Fake news websites can use sloppy or unprofessional design and abuse ALL CAPITAL letters.” “
– “If in doubt … ask a librarian.” (That’s a solid suggestion. The best librarians are strong advocates of truth and accuracy.)
And here are some more suggestions from National Association for Media Education website (which offers great tools for teachers):
– Be careful not to be gullible. “Believing everything you see and hear can create problems if the information you consume is partially or totally inaccurate. It may lead you down the path of trying an unproven cure or it could even influence how you vote in the next election. “
– Make “conscious choices about what type of media you spend time with and how much time you spend with that media. … Remember that not all content is created the same.
We live in what has been dubbed “the information age”: there are many arriving 24/7. We may not have a choice as to how much. information that bombards us, but we have a choice about what information we believe and share. It can be exhausting to sort the wheat from the chaff. But we have a responsibility, as citizens, to do so.