Media Literacy and Countering Disinformation

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The word “Post-Truth” was declared the international word of the year in 2016 by Oxford Dictionaries. This is ironic given that evidence and facts are now just one click away. But the same accessibility which has allowed for knowledge and information sharing, has also led to the ubiquity of unverified, and at times fictitious, information under the garb of truth. 21st century is the age of hyper-connectivity. We live in an era where information can be transmitted around the world at the click of a button – whether it’s factually correct or not. The advent of internet and social media has changed our information eco-system. The old gatekeepers of knowledge have been brought down through the “democratization” of information. Credible information is at the heart of what makes an effective democracy, yet many people find it difficult to differentiate between good journalism from disinformation. Increasingly, inaccurate information is shared on social media platforms and echoed by a growing number of explicitly partisan outlets both in traditional media and social media. This becomes even more problematic when people have a tendency to accept agreeable messages over challenging claims, even if the former are less objectively valid and credible. On top of this, the social media algorithms have created filter-bubbles and eco-chambers, increasing the polarization and partisanship in society. Pakistan is no exception to this phenomenon. It has more than 82 million internet users and 40.5 million smartphone users. Without appropriate digital and media literacy, public is often unaware of how dubious information platforms are exploiting their biases. Being the largest Ed-tech platform of Pakistan, Nearpeer has come up with a first of its kind course in Pakistan, “Media Literacy: Countering Disinformation & Fake News in a Post-Truth World”. This course is conceived, designed and delivered by Nearpeer’s top-rated instructor, Mr. Abrar Ahmed. He is a pioneer ed-tech instructor and has a huge footprint in disrupting the education system in Pakistan. His seven other courses at Nearpeer – including the Political Science, Gender Studies, Constitutional Law – have cumulatively gained more than 80,000 enrolments from all over the country. Through this massive digital outreach, he has managed to diminish the physical barriers between students and quality education. Unfortunately, the phenomenon of Fake-News and disinformation in Pakistan has not been extensively studied. To address this gap, building on his experience as an officer of the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), Mr. Abrar will discuss real world cases of public challenges linked to manipulative information and conspiracy theories. Through this course, you will learn how to navigate the modern information landscape, identify “fake news”, and gain critical skills in media and information literacy. You will be able to evaluate the credibility of Information claims, identify cognitive biases and fallacies that influence the interpretation of information. Most importantly, it would help you in critically examining news stories and online content, and effectively challenge your filter bubbles and eco-chambers. This course will also feature some key issues in Pakistan's public policies arising out of disinformation and fake news, along with a critical rebuttal of such misinformation. Eventually, the goal is to make information literacy skills as accessible as possible through this medium, as well as by collaborating with universities and training institutions in the future. This course is a humble contribution in an attempt to move the society from a “post-truth world” to a “pro-truth world”.

Learn how to navigate through the modern information ecosystem and counter disinformation & fake-news.