Since February, Poynter’s social-first digital media literacy initiative MediaWise has launched a microlearning course in four languages around the world. The course is designed to help people become more critical consumers of the vast amount of information they see and share online. With support from Meta, citizens of Brazil, France, Spain and Turkey are opting into this free course to improve their ability to find reliable sources and identify misinformation on the internet and social media.
The 10-day course, which is based on the success of MediaWise’s digital-first training for Americans over the age of 50, teaches participants how to spot misinformation and responsibly engage with online content. Daily lessons are sent directly to the participants via WhatsApp. Prominent figures from trusted sources in each country guide users through localized curricula as MediaWise ambassadors and share their expertise to promote the exchange of fact-based information. In less than five minutes a day, participants can have a greater understanding of what to do when they encounter suspicious or misleading information on the internet.
Next week, hundreds of creators, consumers and champions of fact-based reporting will convene at the ninth annual GlobalFact fact-checking summit in Oslo, Norway, to discuss solutions that address misinformation on a global scale — including MediaWise’s international digital media literacy efforts.
I spoke with Brittani Kollar, international training manager for MediaWise, to learn more about the course and hear how everyone — journalists, fact-checkers and citizens alike — can do their part to curb the spread of misinformation wherever they live.
Sara: You oversee the launch of MediaWise programs that help people in countries around the world be more cautious online. This requires you to be at the center of the world’s misinformation problem. What are you seeing?
Brittani: Misinformers are getting more and more creative with the ways they use technology to push disinformation campaigns and influence some sort of behavior. That could be anything from algorithms that lead consumers to faulty health care products to manipulated images and videos used out of context. This is especially problematic when the falsehoods intentionally stoke polarization or undermine the principles of institutions designed to protect people — like democracy. It’s easy to see how people become more divided and slip into the “us vs. them” mentality. But, there is a real hunger for civil discussion and just being able to connect with each other as humans. Digital media literacy can pave the path for people to come together and have open, honest and thoughtful conversations.
Brittani: It starts with knowing how to identify misinformation. When MediaWise launched in 2018, our partners at the Stanford History Education Group developed three questions to ask when you want to verify a claim:
- Who is behind the information?
- What is the evidence?
- What are other sources saying?
SHEG’s three questions lay a solid foundation for people to develop the savvy skills necessary to discern fact from fiction. The course encourages folks to take the time to pause and think critically. We cover everything from recognizing image manipulation and outsmarting algorithms to checking credentials and having genuine conversations with friends and family who share misinformation online. Above all else, it’s important to just take a moment to consider how the information in question — whether it is true or false — could affect yourself or your loved ones who engage with your posts.
Sara: What kind of responses are you hearing from the participants?
Brittani: The course is designed to be interactive. Participants must reply to the daily questions to ensure they continue to receive lessons. Some people also choose to share their feedback about the experience. Most of the messages have been expressions of gratitude for teaching them something new and ultimately helping them avoid the harms of misinformation. A person in Brazil said the tools to detect misinformation bring extreme value to everyday life as the world becomes increasingly connected. Someone in Turkey sent a row of congratulatory emojis with a note that everyone should have this training. My favorites are the ones that say they’re looking forward to the next day’s lesson.
Sara: MediaWise is heading to GlobalFact 9 to lead and listen to important conversations about digital media literacy with the international fact-checking community. What topics are up for discussion?
Brittani: We’re looking forward to being a part of the Media Literacy Track at GlobalFact 9. Everyone who is interested in bridging the digital divide that viral misinformation has created is invited to join the discussion and share their ideas. We’ll meet with members of the global fact-checking community and its supporters to better understand how we can collaborate to reach key audiences using technology and grassroots efforts, work with regional education systems to employ media literacy education in schools, and more. Together, we’ll explore innovation, programs and partnerships that will shape the future of digital media literacy.
Visit poynter.org/mediawise/international to learn more about MediaWise’s international digital media literacy efforts and to sign up for a course. Follow @MediaWise across all social media platforms for more tips on fact-checking viral claims online.