July 19, 2021
The Government has published the new Strategy as part of its drive to combat the spread of misinformation and disinformation. The idea is to give people the skills to think critically about what they see and read online and help children navigate the internet safely.
The Government says that, according to Ofcom, 40% of adult internet users do not have the skills to critically assess online content. Children up to the age of 15 are particularly vulnerable, with studies by the National Literacy Trust finding that just 2% of children have the critical thinking skills needed to tell fact from fiction online.
There was a rise in misinformation and disinformation on social media and other online platforms during the pandemic, and promotion of fake COVID-19 treatments and falsehoods about 5G led to vandalism of telephone masts in a number of locations.
The strategy includes an action plan with £340,000 to be spent in the first year (2021/22), with a focus on vulnerable internet users. This is the inaugural plan with updates on progress to be published annually.
A new “Train the Trainer” programme will provide government training to carers of disabled children and teachers. They will be taught to teach others to understand how the online environment works, including how online news articles and social media posts are generated and paid for, and how to critically analyse the content they consume.
The action plan also announces funding for the National Youth Agency to develop a module on media literacy, giving youth workers the opportunity for early interventions to prevent online harm occurring.
The strategy will also provide a training programme for frontline library workers who interact with members of the public every day to teach them about information literacy.
The strategy will also explore working with social media influencers to promote key online media literacy skills and critical thinking, raising awareness amongst groups who may otherwise be hard to reach.
An Online Media Literacy Taskforce will be created, made up of tech platforms, civil society and academia, bringing together key stakeholders to take collective action to remove the barriers to increasing people’s media literacy. An online portal will also provide a “one stop shop” for users to access resources about media literacy and online safety, and to help equip them with key skills and knowledge to spot disinformation and make safe decisions online. To read the Government’s press release in full and for a link to the new strategy, click here.