To Fight Disinformation, Educate News Consumers

By Eliza Newlin Carney

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Roman Kraft on Unsplash

There’s a lot of disagreement over how to combat disinformation in the digital age, in part because First Amendment concerns can make it tricky to police political speech on the web.

But there’s one “upstream” solution that runs no risk of curbing free expression, and it may be the most effective in the long run in any case: train news consumers to spot fakery. News literacy programs already aim to do this for students, but there’s a growing focus on adults, who according to research have a harder time discerning factual news from opinion news, and are more likely to repost or forward misinformation.

As I report this week in The Fulcrum, the latest tool for boosting adult media literacy comes from The News Literacy Project, which has been expanding rapidly since its launch in 2008. NLP has just released an app dubbed “Informable” that uses brain games to train users to better discern truth from fiction. The idea is in part to help NLP move beyond the classroom to reach the general public. Read more about adult news literacy and the Informable app here.

NEW HOT READ: THE U.S. CONSTITUTION. Despite the evidence that Americans lack civic knowledge and are abandoning print publications, one of the nation’s oldest documents seems to be coming back into vogue. Another article in The Fulcrum tells the whole story: “Civic education has disappeared? Print is no longer the best way to consume important information? Try persuading nearly a million people who have purchased copies of the Constitution in the past four years — at a record-setting pace.” Read the whole story here.

IS CONGRESS REALLY GETTING LESS PARTISAN? That’s the counter-intuitive conclusion of a report released by the Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy. The report’s Bipartisan Index rankings acknowledge “serious governance failures” on Capitol Hill, yet nevertheless show steady increase in work across party lines over the last three years. “In today’s polarized political environment,” said McCourt School Dean Maria Cancian, “it can often seem like our lawmakers are working against one another, rather than for their constituents. And yet our latest Bipartisan Index– a non-partisan and data-driven tool– points to more cooperation among lawmakers.” Read the full report here.

A GOOD-NEWS DEMOCRACY EXPERIMENT. Think Americans are hopelessly divided? Read this fascinating New York Times story about the “America in One Room” experiment, which found that informed dialogue revealed considerable common ground. Said one participant: “I’d like to see our politicians sit down with the same rules: You’re not disrespectful or unkind to anyone.” Read the whole story here.

A DAY OF THANKS FOR THE ASHES OF WAR. Did you know that Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday at the height of the Civil War? President Abraham Lincoln and his secretary of state, William H. Seward, issued the Thanksgiving proclamation on Oct. 3, 1863, in part to remind Americans “that they remained a single people,” writes historian Ted Widmer in The Washington Post.

Eliza Newlin Carney is a journalist and founder of The Civic Circle.

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