Real vs False information; Fake News

Summary of meetings with 10th graders, Hof Hasharon High School, Israel. First meeting: 20.1.2019. Second meeting: 3.2.2019. 22 students participated: 7 girls and 15 boys.

First meeting:

The issue is problematic due to the multiplicity of sources of information, especially in social networks. Some participants noted that in many cases the problem is not necessarily false information but information that is only partially true, or biased.

Some students think they have the ability to distinguish between true and false info, and some of them say they do not have such ability. Some participants said that they have the ability to distinguish between false and real information only in subjects known to them thanks to personal experience. One participant said that in his opinion, this is the only way to distinguish – even though not everyone can personally experience everything.

Therefore, another participant recommended that one should rely on the knowledge and personal experience of others.

Some participants said that the problem also exists in non-digital media (printed newspapers or television), and that it is not advisable to rely on journalists. They believe that most information in the media (any type of media) is either biased or only partially true.

With regard to the example of people avoiding vaccines due to the distribution of false information, one participant noted that there is also a positive aspect: this phenomenon may encourage the development of vaccines with fewer side effects.

Second meeting:

Participants were asked to express their opinion on the expected situation in 10 years. To this end, three alternative scenarios were presented for the year 2029:

1. Fake news are dominant. The majority of news is distorted, you cannot trust any source on the net.

2. Reliability of information on the Internet is guaranteed by new technologies (e.g. artificial intelligence) and other means.

3. People who were born and matured with the Internet know very well how to distinguish between real and false information.

Most students think that Scenario 1 is too extreme. They think that in the future a lot of information will be false, but not all of it. The majority may be false, but it is more likely to be about half – half.

Some students believe that the situation will be quite similar to the present situation.

Some students tend to agree, in part, with Scenario 2. They think reliability will increase, but it is not certain that reliability will really be guaranteed. It is possible that for a significant part of the news, perhaps for most of them, reliability will be indeed guaranteed by new technologies.

One participant believed there will be more trust in information thanks to technology, but not only because of technologies. The change for the better will also happen because more and more people will want to be able to check and verify.

One participant mentioned Wikipedia as a possible model for improving reliability. On Wikipedia all false things are filtered and corrected within a short time. It is possible to develop a kind of correction mechanism for news items.

Some participants think it is more likely that in the future there will be a combination of Scenarios 2 and 3. That is, there will be many more experienced people who can distinguish between real and false information, and also the new technologies will help to increase reliability. Overall, the ability to distinguish real information from false information will improve, mainly through cumulative experience. But it will never reach 100%.

Regarding Scenario 3, one of the students commented (contrary to the views expressed in meetings with other groups) that actually adults today have more experience than young people and can better distinguish between false and real information.

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