Media literacy: What all of us need as digital citizens
The fake news that Pope Francis was supporting the Trump candidature spread in social media at the speed of 97.000 Facebook shares before the US Presidential elections. However, the information that this was just a hoax only reached a shy 3.400 Facebook shares from the fact-checking website factcheck.org. This is an example of how the sadly famous neologism "post-truth era" operates.
Google searches : accurate and verified results ?
The digital revolution is shaking our way of interacting with the world and with media: Mobile devices enable connectivity everywhere, at all times, to almost everything, and in the very same instant. Through our interactions in social media, we are as much sources of news as we used to be recipients of them. While most of us are confident users of new media, we are not yet savvy users:
Around 1 out of 4 Europeans think that the result of a Google search are accurate and verified results. 25% of Europeans are not aware that results are filtered by algorithms and therefore need to be treated with discernment. Sometimes, algorithms can deliver results that are dangerous for non-literate users and for our common values: The Guardian newspaper has recently documented that the Google search "Did holocaust happen" would deliver a holocaust denial webpage as a top result.
But let's not get only scared about the new digital media world! David Ryan Polgar, founder of the Digital Citizenship Summit in USA explains that "Social media is like a knife: it can be used to inflict pain, or to carve out a future that is more connected, more socially just, and more intellectually curious."
To move in the right direction, citizens urgently need to be empowered with critical thinking and media literacy tools, so they can challenge their sources of information, understand the way how information is delivered to them, to judge the veracity of news content and to take informed decisions before sharing that content on social media. Media literacy skills have always been necessary for a well-functioning democracy. In the digital era, in addition, it is crucial for all of us to acquire a good level of digital media literacy.
Good practices in Europe
The role of the European Commission is to document, bring to the light and facilitate the exchange of good practices between Member States so they can be extended. It also helps to build bridges among different stakeholders: educators, journalists, media companies, digital intermediates, civil society… The tools are the EU Media Literacy Expert group, the eNews on media literacy and the Twitter account @EU_MedLit. The last meeting of the Media Literacy Expert Group can be fully watched online.
In early 2017 we will publish a mapping of media literacy practices in EU-28 since 2010. The report describes over 500 significant media literacy projects. In 2017, the Commission – further to an initiative of the Parliament - will also implement two pilot projects on "Media literacy for all".
In addition to specific policy actions targeting media literacy, there are several other EU policy areas which contain media literacy elements. These include the review of key competences in formal education, the use of media literacy to combat radicalisation, media literacy as an enabler for participation in civic and political life and in the promotion of Fundamental Rights, the European digital competence framework and youth policy. Media literacy is also one of the elements of the EU policy towards its Eastern neighbour countries.
The EU External Service produces a weekly disinformation newsletter in particular tackling pro-Kremlin disinformation. The European Council Conclusions on "developing media literacy and critical thinking through education and training" of May 2016 invited Member States and the Commission to ensure policy coherence at EU level in the area of media literacy among all policies. The European Commission is also cooperating with UNESCO to promote media literacy policies and projects, as media literacy is a global issue.
Media literacy is what all of us need to become active digital citizens and to contribute to the democratic and civic life of our societies.
Mari Sol Pérez Guevara
@EU_MedLit - Policy officer in DG CONNECT in the European Commission
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the sole responsibility of the author and in no way represent the view of the European Commission and its services
The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of COMECE and the Jesuit European Office.