The Government of Spain Approves a Plan Against ‘Fake News’

The government of Spain has approved an action plan against ‘fake news’. This includes monitoring information in mainstream media and potentially collaborating with news outlets to combat the “deliberate, large-scale and systematic dissemination of disinformation”(1).

The Spanish government describes access to truthful information as “one of the pillars that sustain democratic societies”(1).

This is of particular interest to us as we launch our new course, DigiBlox, a Digital Skills Training Framework funded by the Erasmus Plus programme. We warmly welcome the news of an action plan against fake news in the media, which was an issue covered in the online launch of the DigiBlox digital media course in June earlier this year. This event was run by Capacity London and CyberSalon, two of our partners in this European project. Being able to identify and combat the deluge of fake news online is an increasingly important part of digital media education.

What is Fake News?

Fake news has been on the rise and can have a serious impact on society. Misleading information or advice can lead to discrimination or harm when people act on the belief that the information they have is correct.

There are several types of fake news. Disinformation is when a news story is purposely written to be fake or misleading to further an agenda. Misinformation is when an article contains incorrect information without meaning to deceive the reader. In this case, the person that wrote the article or headline may have misinterpreted information or used sources containing disinformation. In addition, ‘clickbait’ is when the headline of an article has been sensationalised to mislead the reader, yet the article itself may contain correct or contrary information. These cases are particularly dangerous because many people will only see the headline without reading the content of the article.

Examples of Fake News:

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, WhatsApp messages circled the UK claiming to give advice about Covid-19. These included false information on how to protect yourself from the virus(2), and that holding your breath for 10 seconds could tell you whether or not you have it(3). These unfounded claims may have given people a false sense of security about the virus and led to taking government regulations and guidance less seriously.

A controversial study by Andrew Wakefield in 1998 misleadingly claimed the MMR vaccine was linked to autism and resulted in vaccination rates dropping in children, as the findings concerned parents. Studies published in response refuted these claims and Wakefield and his colleagues were later found guilty of scientific misrepresentation(4). Despite being discredited, Wakefield and his study are still cited by the anti-vaccine movement today. A decrease in vaccination uptake is almost always linked to increased childhood illness, putting lives at risk.

How to Spot Fake News:

Check the article’s sources – find out where the author of the article you’re reading got their information from, and whether or not they are trustworthy sources.

Consider the publisher of the article – this includes the author and the publication; what types of news are they well known for, and have they been found to publish fake news before?

Take a look at the URL – if you’re online, check the URL of the web page to make sure you’re really on the website you think you’re on; some fake news outlets impersonate other more legitimate publishers.

Always read the article – read the full article for the big picture, don’t just believe what a headline tells you.

Look at the writing – if a piece contains a lot of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or doesn’t use actual quotes from the person they’re talking about, it’s a sign that less people have signed off on an article before it was published.

Consult other outlets – if a story is true, more often than not several major news publishers will report on it.

Consult a fact-checking website – Websites that check the veracity of stories are increasingly being used. In the UK, popular options are the BBC’s Reality Check, Channel 4’s FactCheck, and the charity-based organisation Full Fact.

Check the date – things that happened a long time ago can be re-published or put into a new context to try and alter the meaning.

Combine your fact checking methods – the methods above are not meant to be used in isolation; you should use a number of different fact-checking methods simultaneously to build up a bigger picture of the credibility of the article you are reading.

Develop your digital approach

The online challenges facing us today, including fake news, mean it’s important to not only have strong digital skills but to also think critically. The DigiBlox suite of qualifications is an innovative resource that can help you develop such an approach. During February next year, one of our courses on Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship will be delivered online by 3Si in collaboration with UNIA (International University of Andalucia). Open to UNIA students who want to gain extra credits towards their studies, it will cover the essential elements of developing digital literacy and engaging with collaborative opportunities online.

If you’d like to know more about what DigiBlox can offer you, contact us or keep an eye on our social media for more updates in the coming weeks.

References:

(1) https://www.europapress.es/nacional/noticia-gobierno-aprueba-plan-contra-fake-news-monitorizara-informacion-podra-pedir-colaboracion-medios-20201105112017.html
(2) https://www.politico.eu/article/the-coronavirus-covid19-fake-news-pandemic-sweeping-whatsapp-misinformation/
(3) https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/16/us/coronavirus-myths-debunking-holding-breath-10-seconds-trnd/index.html
(4) http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/mmr_prog_summary.shtml