Pat Drummond :: life & technology

February 03, 2019

Please don't share "Junk News"

Everyone's heard of fake news but probably thought President #45 invented it. Well put on your helmets because the online war on democracy is already up to speed trying to influence you and as many of your friends as possible before the Canadian federal election in October.

I read in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper (a trusted news source) that even after the Russians were caught out for spreading fabricated news stories during the 2016 American election, they continued their online attacks. Russian operatives are experts at creating distrust of the political system on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and other social sites. Their news stories look professionally done, with photos and videos, but full of misinformation about candidates and public figures. These might even influence you not to vote at all. 

In the recent Swedish election, 22% of news shared online with political hashtags was found to be "junk news", defined as deliberately misleading, deceptive or incorrect information.  During the last Mexican election completely fabricated news stories about candidates and President Obrador were circulated, but apparently in this case most attacks were home-grown.

I expect Canada is fertile ground for digital warfare - we were early adopters of social media sites, but entirely too trusting about what we read online and far too quick to share and retweet to our followers and friends.

Online Media Literacy
If people begin to distrust all news sources, even traditional media, they could stop voting and democracy itself would be in trouble.  You think this can't happen, but it already has.  All democracies need to teach media literacy that gives all citizens, not just journalists, the know-how to navigate the news and separate fact from fiction.

The 30-Second Rule
Canadian political scientist Thierry Glasson points to the "30 seconds" campaign by Quebec journalists. It urges everyone to take 30 seconds to read a piece of online content before sharing it.  First check the source - where is it from? Is it trustworthy. Do its links take you to another site? If you doubt the a single second that it's legitimate, don't share it.

Type "Canada media literacy trusted sources" into your favorite search engine to learn more about trusted news sources.              #fb