Media literacy as a vehicle for dealing with fake news

  • Awareness
  • 29/06/2017
  • Dutch Safer Internet Centre

The topical issue of fake news is the focus for the June 2017 edition of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) bulletin. Here, Mediawijzer.net, part of the Dutch Safer Internet Centre (SIC), shares some examples of media literacy approaches for combatting the problem.

Fake news stories seem to be surrounding us lately. One striking example is a story supposedly coming from NASA, predicting 15 days of darkness on earth. In the Netherlands, a story about a life-threatening bug recently went viral on social media. Maybe you have fallen for a fake news story at some point, or maybe you have a strong opinion about what should be done about fake news. But one thing is certain: fake news is not a new phenomenon and in the Dutch media literacy network, several organisations have been developing tools and materials around this topic for a while. During the Insafe Training meeting in May 2017, Mediawijzer.net was asked to share some of these inspiring initiatives and perspectives on media literacy as a vehicle for dealing with fake news.

There isn't one solution
The problem around fake news is so complex that it is difficult to come up with a "one-size-fits-all" solution. As Mediawijzer.net programme manager, Mary Berkhout, stated during the last Dutch Media Literacy Week (with a theme of Fact, Fake or Filter: How are you being influenced?): "the hunger towards clicks, likes and sensation (and the ad revenues that come with it) is taking us further and further away from what news media is supposed to do: to give us insight into what is happening around us, and what is happening in the world. Often, the extremes are highlighted in media more than the middle-voice, and everyone is a newsmaker nowadays."

Research conducted by Mediawijzer.net in 2016 shows that Dutch citizens are finding it more and more difficult to determine which mediamakers and newsmakers they can trust.

So, if there isn't one solution, what can we do? We need to understand how media work and what their influence is. We have to look critically at (news) media and realise what our own role and responsibility is. Hence the importance of media literacy. Fortunately, media literacy is high on the agenda in the Netherlands.

Inspiring initiatives
Of course, media literacy as a way of dealing with fake news is topic of interest internationally also. Fake news was one of the main themes at the recent Insafe meeting, and Mediawijzer.net were able to share what is happening in its network during an interactive session.

Some examples include:

  • The "Nieuws in de Klas" (News in the classroom) project literally brings news into the classroom and provides teachers with materials and tools to discuss current (news) items and issues in school. Pupils develop information skills, learn how to read news and media, and discern what is reliable information. Recently, a checklist was created to help to determine whether news is fake or not. 
  • As part of the De Frisse Blik project, students make their own news report. They learn how news is made and how perception and representation work.
  • The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision offers a game for children aged 10-12 about fake news, called "Too Good to be True" (Te mooi om waar te zijn). Children make their own vlog that contains something that is too good to be true. The other teams have to find out what that is and what has been manipulated to practice their critical attitude towards videos.
  • The Flemish Knowledge Centre for Media Literacy, Mediawijs.be, recently launched educational materials around fake news. 3 May was Difference Day (World Press Freedom Day). Mediawijs.be organised a "Living library" where youngsters were able to question journalists and other media professionals about fake news https://mediawijs.be/tools/educatief-pakket-fake-news
  • Nieuwscheckers is a project by Leiden University. Journalism students fact-check and contextualise (online) news items, often focusing on stories that have gone viral on social media.
  • Jeugdjournaal (a television news bulletin for children) has offered masterclasses by experts for children, explaining what fake news is and how to find out whether an item is fake or not. 150 children were present at the first masterclass earlier this year, together with their (grand)parents.
  • Our website for the wider public, www.mediawijsheid.nl, contains a dossier about fake news, in which information and current issues around fake news are collected. It serves as a starting point: what is it that you have to know about the topic, and where can you go for more information and materials? The dossier is continuously being updated.
  • Fake news is also a topic in the MediaMasters Game (150,000 pupils registered for the game during the last national Media Literacy Week) and the MediaMasters Club (an accessible way for teachers to continue with the topic during the school year). MediaMasters is a project for children aged 10 and 11.

If you have any questions or want to exchange knowledge or ideas on the issue of fake news or media literacy generally, please contact info@mediawijzer.net.

Find out more about the work of the Dutch Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services.

Alternatively, find the contact details for your national Safer Internet Centre here.


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