By Maria Kotrotsiou
15 July 2021
This article was written on the occasion of the dissemination of E-SCHOOL’s EDUCATIONAL GROUP EU project ‘AdultMisinfo’, a project that aims to train adult workers in order to educate adults in social media literacy and critical and analytical thinking as a way of combatting fake news and social media misinformation.
With the advent of smartphones and computers in the twenty-first century, internet use and information dissemination became a public activity, as contrast to its more limited use in the late twentieth century. While this technological jump has allowed access to the masses and has given birth to tremendous achievements for mankind, it also has created a huge gap in relevant education, meaning that people have gained the means to obtain information without having any education on how to filter it. Moreover, a huge number of citizens can’t tell the difference between a professional and an amateur media source, proven news or rumor engine.
Governments are increasingly reliant on the internet and social media to provide information to citizens in the digital era. However, in most European nations, where almost half of the population completed high school before the internet was established, how much do individuals understand about how information is processed, manipulated, and presented to them via internet-based communications?
According to WHO, wrong information can be fatal. In the first 3 months of 2020, nearly 6 000 people around the globe were hospitalized because of coronavirus misinformation, recent research suggests. During this period, researchers say at least 800 people may have died due to misinformation related to COVID-19*. At its extreme, death can be the tragic outcome of what the World Health Organization has termed the infodemic, an overabundance of information — some accurate, some not — that spreads alongside a disease outbreak. False information runs the gamut, from discrediting the threat of COVID-19 to conspiracy theories that vaccines could alter human DNA. Though they aren’t new, in our digital age infodemics spread like wildfire. They create a breeding ground for uncertainty. Uncertainty in turn fuels skepticism and distrust, which is the perfect environment for fear, anxiety, finger-pointing, stigma, violent aggression and dismissal of proven public health measures — which can lead to loss of life. (Source: www.who.int)