Fake news is a threat to the “fabric of democracy”. That’s according to a 2018 report by British MPs, who argue that disinformation on social media is undermining trust in information more generally. News that contradicts or challenges our worldview is labelled “fake news” and dismissed. News that supports or reinforces our beliefs is shared and spread.
In November 2019, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, launched a Contract for the Web to tackle misinformation, privacy violations, and other abuses, arguing that: “We’re at a tipping point. How we respond to this abuse will determine whether the web lives up to its potential as a global force for good or leads us into a digital dystopia.”
So, what exactly is “fake news”? Although the term was popularised by Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential election, the Oxford English Dictionary dates the first use of the phrase to as far back as 1890. It is a contentious expression, and some fact checking websites have stopped using it altogether because they argue the definition has shifted to include any information which readers find threatening.
Want to learn more about ‘fake news’? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Randomguy2017 arguing that it’s “easy” to spot fake news. For him, any mainstream media is obviously fake news (and, presumably, social media posts and YouTube videos are automatically more trustworthy).
Is it really as easy as Randomguy2017 is suggesting? To get a reaction, we spoke to Hugo Travers, a.k.a HugoDécrypte, a popular French political YouTuber. What would he say? Has he ever been fooled by fake news, and does he think it’s easy to spot?
For another perspective, we put the same question to Adeline Brion, Acting Project Director & Belgium Programme Coordinator at Lie Detectors, an organisation promoting the teaching of critical thinking and media literacy in schools. What would she say?
We also put the question to Enrique A. Fonseca Porras, co-founder of the VisualPolitik YouTube channel, which focuses on explaining and exploring global politics. How would he respond?
Maybe fake news isn’t so easy to spot. In that case, how can we protect ourselves against it? We had a suggestion sent in from HJo, who thinks the solution might be to start teaching students in schools how to spot fake news. Is it a crazy idea? Should students be taught media literacy?
How would the French political YouTuber HugoDécrypte respond?
Next, we asked Adeline Brion, whose organisation (Lie Detectors) is actively promoting media literacy in schools. Why does she think it’s a good idea?
Finally, what would Enrique A. Fonseca Porras from the YouTube channel VisualPolitik say about the idea?
Can you spot ‘fake news’? Is it easy to sort good information from bad online? And should media literacy be taught in schools? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!
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