Education chief: ‘We must expose fake news’

Just not true: Five fake news stories which have been widely shared in recent months.

This weekend, as a senior economist warned of the harm caused to children by fake news, a professor at the London School of Economics said it really might help save good journalism. Why?

What’s happening

Denzel Washington endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential bid. Germany made child marriage legal.

These stories are eye-catching and seem possible. Official-looking websites promoted them; the relevant articles included headlines, images and quotes.

But none of them were remotely true.

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They were just examples of “fake news” — made-up stories published online. This weekend, one of the world’s leading educators said schools should focus on tackling this problem.

“Being able to tell what is true is a critical skill today,” said Andreas Schleicher, the director of education at the OECD. Teaching, he added, should give children the skills they need to see what is fact and what is fiction.

Fake news has hit the headlines recently. Many untrue stories were shared during the US election.

But this month Charlie Beckett, a journalism professor, said fake news had led to a boom in fact-checking and a new interest in teaching news literacy. In his sector, the news media, he said, it was “the best thing that has happened for decades”.

Some say…

He is right. The press must respond by producing clear, honest and important work. We may see an end to empty articles which play to an audience’s prejudices. There will be a new interest in critical, investigative journalism. And the public — especially the young — will learn to question sources and take nothing for granted.

Others think…

Nonsense. Fake news encourages ignorant choices and plays to people’s emotional need to have other people agree with their opinions. If facts always appear contentious, people will believe nothing. It generates mistrust of the public sphere — including the media. And it cannot be tamed, because social media is too difficult to regulate.

You Decide

  1. Could you tell the difference between a fake news story and a true one?

Activities

  1. Write a list of three questions you would ask before you read the news, to help you work out how true it is.

Some People Say...

“The human brain can turn any crisis into an opportunity.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

Endorsed
Declared public support for something or someone.
OECD
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development — a forum with over 35 member states, including many of the world’s richest countries.
News literacy
The ability to understand and evaluate reports of what has been happening.
Prejudices
An opinion that you refuse to change despite it not being based on evidence.
Contentious
Controversial and debatable. Likely to provoke an argument and disagreement.

Subjects

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