Among the various concerns related to the spread of fake news online, and the manipulation of users through misleading, biased and sensationalized content, a key element that clearly needs to be addressed is digital literacy, and better-equipping users to fact-check the things they share before they do so.
But that's not an easy process. Facebook has tried to make users second guess the content they share through fact-check prompts, and added new Page information panels to help users understand who's behind each message. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have also added warnings on certain searches to stop the spread of false information, and each of these measures is having some level of impact. But the larger issue at hand is that a lot of people are simply not as attuned to the modern media process, and how they can be manipulated.
This is an area that all social platforms are now looking to address.
Along this line, and as part of UNESCO’s Global Media and Information Literacy Week, Twitter has this week published a new digital literacy guide for educators which outlines how people can understand and utilize Twitter specifically, while also providing pointers around digital media usage more broadly.
As explained by Twitter:
"Easy-to-read, informative and fun, the handbook primarily aims to help educators equip younger generations with media literacy skills, in turn enabling them to ask the right questions about content they engage with online, and critically analyze news and information they engage with on the service."
The guide - which you can download for free here - includes notes on how Twitter works, with an overview of the platform's key functions.
There's also a heap of information focused on personal account security and online safety:
As you can see in the last point, the guide also aims to help readers question what it is they're sharing, and provides additional pointers on how to fact-check and confirm stories for legitimacy.
Recent studies have underlined the need for digital literacy education of this type - a report published by Pew Research earlier this month, for example, showed that 71% of people are not aware that Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp. That's a more industry-specific fact, of course, but it points to a gap in understanding, which, given that the vast majority of people now use Facebook and/or Instagram, is important to note.
The focus of this guide is to help improve media and information literacy (MIL) outcomes overall, which are defined as such:
There's a heap of valuable information in the guide - mostly focused on using Twitter, logically, but there are some good insights and tips which can help anyone get a better understanding of the modern digital landscape, and how to fact check and confirm stories in order to avoid manipulation.
Also, an interesting aside - in the aforementioned Pew Research study, another element showed that only 15% of respondents could correctly identify Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in an image.
Dorsey is used as an example in this new guide:
Maybe unrelated, but interesting nonetheless.
The guide is a good initiative, and as noted, part of an important area of focus. If we want to slow the spread of fake news, we need to ensure that people are equipped with the capabilities to be able to do so, while also providing information and resources to help them understand the need to protect themselves and their information online.
Digital literacy is a key problem, and education tools like this will hopefully help to shift the balance away from such in future.