UK-wide strategy to help young people spot 'fake news' launched

  • Employees that work with young people across the UK are to be trained to help children spot online disinformation, in a new government strategy aimed at combatting 'fake news' and conspiracy theories.

    Via the Online Media Literacy Strategy, teachers, youth workers, carers and library staff will be taught how to teach others in better understanding the internet, including how to critically analyse the content they consume.

    The scheme is part of wider government efforts to improve media literacy and help young people better navigate the online world safely.

    Currently, some 2% of children have the critical thinking skills needed to spot disinformation online, according to research by the National Literacy Trust.

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    That follows concerns over an increase in false claims and harmful content appearing online during the Covid-19 pandemic, including falsehoods about coronavirus treatment, vaccine safety and conspiracy theories about links to 5G.

    Launching the strategy at Battersea Library in South London on Wednesday, minister for digital and culture Caroline Dinenage said: “False or confused information spread online could threaten public safety and undermine our democracy.

    “We are legislating to make tech platforms more accountable for this, but people still need the right skills to distinguish between fact and fiction online.

    “Through the Media Literacy Strategy, we will channel the efforts of dedicated UK organisations and bring the fight to fake news by making the young, vulnerable and wider online community more resistant and resilient to it.”

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    £340,000 is planned to be spent in the first year of the scheme and an Online Media Literacy Taskforce is to be created, made up of tech platforms, civil society and academics, to find ways of improving media literacy.

    “In a world where school, social, work and family life is increasingly lived online, having the right skills and knowledge is vital to ensure all parents and children are able to explore everything the online world has to offer confidently and safely,” said Vicki Shotbolt, founder and chief executive of online safety site, Parent Zone.

    “The Media Literacy Strategy is an ideal opportunity to ensure people of all generations and backgrounds are supported to thrive online, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Government to build on the progress made so far with this important initiative.”

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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