Saturday, 14 January 2017
I don't know about British schools, but in California a senator and assemblyman have both proposed bills to fight fake news by teaching children how to detect misleading, fabricated or inaccurate media and social media reports.
Senator Bill Dodd wants to see a "media literacy" curriculum, while Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez seeks lessons on "civic online reasoning".
It's astonishing to an oldie like me, well used to sceptical sifting through media reports and subjecting them to several tests of authenticity - Is this confirmed elsewhere? Is it credible? Is this a news source renowned for making things up? Are there obvious discrepancies and omissions? - that young people aren't taught this basic skill and happily absorb fabricated rubbish without a thought.
When even long-established reputable newspapers give space to dubious unverified stories, it only encourages the spread of fake news. I'm amazed at the constant airing of wild claims about Donald Trump's private life (I know all the details but I'm not giving them even more publicity). They may be 100 per cent true, they may be 100 per cent false, who knows? But why are they reported at all, when right now, there's no evidence whatever to support them?
People are all too willing to believe stories that fit with their particular view of the world, and reluctant to consider they might be a pack of lies.
Last year I complained to the BBC that their story about Vegemite being turned into homemade alcohol was totally untrue, and eventually they admitted it. But not before the story had spread all over the media with no attempt to check it.
The sooner young people can tell the wheat from the chaff, the better.