Avoiding Misinformation Online
Good Things' Community Engagement Manager, Louise Branch, raises awareness of online misinformation with insights from Newsguard and the Network.
Digital media literacy is essential to stay safe online
We’ve all come across misinformation online at some point. Whether it’s a fake news story designed to attract clicks, dodgy health advice on Instagram aiming to sell a product, or simply a highly inaccurate pop culture article written by a poorly paid copy-writer.
In fact, the amount of false information you come across in a day’s scrolling through social media is quite alarming. This is why media literacy is becoming such an essential skill in the digital world.
Media literacy is the ability to access and assess information we come across – whether that’s a social media post, a newspaper article, a film, or even now an article created by Chat GPT!
The internet and social media have democratised information, making it easier than ever before to both share and read news, health information, historical records, recipes, or whatever you want. Although this is fantastic for many reasons, it also means that we are exposed to a lot of inaccurate information, or misinformation.
Learning the skills needed to identify and avoid misinformation online is particularly important for people who are new to the internet and who may have low digital skills.
Tools to help older people build media literacy skills
At one of our recent Digital Inclusion for Older People Meet-ups, we hosted Veena McCoole from NewsGuard. Veena gave a great introduction to the topic and some tips for supporting older people to identify inaccurate information online.
The NewsGuard extension is easy to set up and helps you to easily see if a news website is likely to be trustworthy or not. NewsGuard provides nutrition labels that help you understand how news and information websites are assessed in a transparent way. They are also offering 12 months for free to members of the National Digital Inclusion Network.
Coventry Libraries also told us about a brilliant campaign they are running to raise awareness of false news and AI generated content and how to spot it.
Our own beginner digital skills learning platform, Learn My Way, has over 10 free topics on safety and security online.
NewsGuard’s presentation prompted a really interesting discussion between colleagues from Digital Inclusion Hubs on the theme of misinformation, with key highlights including:
Misinformation about health is a key concern
This was one of the most common areas of concern, with many people referencing false information about the Covid vaccines. A number of hubs signpost to reliable websites like NHS Online and some are even bringing in experts to talk to their learners in person.
Misinformation is often hidden
Often, misinformation is hidden in plain sight, because people aren’t aware that they have read inaccurate information or news.
Because “the algorithms” present us with articles that offer views that we are more likely to agree with, people are less likely to question their trustworthiness. People are often shared misinformation via Whatsapp from people they trust, so it can be hard to convince them that the content isn’t trustworthy.
Raising awareness and putting older people off the internet completely: it’s a fine line
Teaching older learners about misinformation, like many other areas of digital inclusion, can be empowering, helping them to make the right decisions for themselves. However, we need to be careful when talking about the issue, as many hubs said that it can raise alarm bells for some older people.
We heard from hubs that support older people with experience of domestic abuse, who said that it’s not only about misinformation but access to information and knowing what support is available and how they can access it.
The conversation went on to talk about access to online banking for older people and that there is a great need for more information about how they can start using online banking and taking away the fear associated with this. Participants said that banks should play an important role in providing this information!
Community Engagement Manager
Louise looks for opportunities to support and strengthen our network, working with the wider organisation to develop useful training and networking opportunities for our community partners.
More good things
Help people in your community? Join the National Digital Inclusion Network and get access to free digital inclusion services.
Read transformational stories The National Digital Inclusion Network has supported people to improve their lives through digital.
Our digital inclusion services Thousands of people have been supported by the National Databank, the National Device Bank and Learn My Way.