By VERONICA SPAGNA
Fake news has been around for a while, but with the existence of the Internet and ingraining of social media in people, this notion has been increasingly addressed and recognized as a critical issue. Italy has decided to create classes to teach high school students how to recognize fake news and the importance of not sharing false information, in addition to a new set of ethical commandments.
No generation has it ever been so easy and so fast to gain insight on what is happening around the world. Accessing information can be done with just a few taps on our phones. Laura Boldrini, the president of the Italian lower house of Parliament, told The New York Times “Fake news drips drops of poison into our daily web diet and we end up infected without even realizing it. It’s only right to give these kids the possibility to defend themselves from lies.”
Students will receive a list of commandments. One of them is: “Thou shalt not share unverified news; thou shall ask for sources and evidence; thou shall remember that the internet and social networks can be manipulated.”
There are so many sources where we can access our information and the velocity with which we can acquire it doesn’t allow people to constantly check the reliability.
People’s perception is manipulated and not accessing the truth affects people’s actions, as seen in the 2016 elections. In fact, one of the main reasons this program was created is for the upcoming elections in Italy, which are scheduled on May 20, 2018. The Web is already full of conspiracy theories against all parties and it is essential that the political view, especially of a generation ingrained on their phones, is based on the truth.
The Italian government has been working with companies, such as Facebook and Google, to build a program that focuses on training students on how to recognize fake news and conspiracy theories online. The program seeks the creation of “Fake News Hunters” and is expected to begin later this month. It will be launched in approximately 8,000 high schools around all of Italy.
Students will be taught the ethics of not publishing or sharing fake news and how important the impact of everything they share on social media can be. Facebook will be contributing that specific aspect, addressing to students how “likes” on the platform are “monetized and politicized.”
It is of value that a social media giant, such as Facebook has been collaborating with this program. Especially, because of the pressure, social networks and search engines have been given on finding a solution to filter fake news and conspiracy theories. In fact, a few weeks ago, on Oct. 6, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, wrote in a post:
“We will do our part to defend against nation states attempting to spread misinformation and subvert elections. We’ll keep working to ensure the integrity of free and fair elections around the world, and to ensure our community is a platform for all ideas and force for good in a democracy.”
Mark Zuckerberg was never one to approve of the impact of social media, for years he would argue as seeing social media as just a method of communication. His complete change in opinion really brings to surface the importance of doing something about this issue. Facebook reported that if the program is successful, it will create similar programs for other countries in Europe.
Many of the reports on this story are written in detail and seem to deliver a lot of useful information. I am from Italy and this makes me proud especially because I study journalism in the United States, which has a big issue on fake news. I would be really interested in knowing more on who will be teaching these classes and the opinion of students on this new subject.