fake news

How to Recognize Fake News: Now a Subject in California Schools

In an era where teenagers and even adults get most of their news from social media, fake news has become quite common, so much so that it is dangerous and can bring about behavioral change in people. This is especially true in the case of AI which is used for creating hyper-realistic content across formats such as pictures, videos, informational pieces, and more. Thus, the ability to decipher facts from fake or inaccurate content becomes imperative.

With this in mind, the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, signed Assembly Bill 873, which mandates the state to include media literacy as part of the education for all K-12 students. This would be integrated into the curriculum of various crucial subjects such as science, math, history, social studies, and English language arts.

Assemblymember Marc Berman, the bill’s sponsor, mentioned how the bill is important to ensure kids understand and practice critical thinking. After all, without it, the fundamental principles of the nation such as democracy, will be under threat. He also mentioned how the bill is to prevent issues such as swaying electoral votes (through fake content). An apt example of this would be the involvement of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook in the 2016 presidential elections.

Studies and research are being conducted to understand the impact of social media on the human mindset. In the context of fake news and content, organizations are trying to understand how easy or difficult it is for people to believe the things they see on the internet. For instance, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center Survey, people under the age of 30 will likely believe information from social media and national news outlets almost to the same extent. Another study shows that only 7% of adults have a considerable amount of trust in the media.

However, media literacy isn’t merely about elections or changing behavioral patterns. It is also about conditioning and understanding major issues/phenomena of the world, such as climate change, the holocaust, and more. In fact, in the current scenario, wherein AI is known to churn information at a rapid rate, its inaccuracies have a profound impact on people’s mindset, how they perceive history, and the very fabric of modern-day society.

Jennifer Ormsby, the library services manager at the Los Angeles County Office of Education, said, “The increase in Holocaust denial, climate change denial, conspiracy theories getting a foothold, and now AI … all this shows how important media literacy is for our democracy right now.” She even mentioned that the 2016 election scandal was an eye-opener when it comes to the degree of power fake content can hold.

In another instance, a teacher who is part of San Francisco United mentioned, “Media literacy is a basic part of being literate. If we’re just teaching kids how to read, and not think critically about what they’re reading, we’re doing them a disservice.” The statement perfectly describes several issues that the current generation faces while trying to make accurate arguments in any scenario and trying to learn from them.

Many times, the data/info will be skewed due to several reasons such as failure of tech, human error, challenges due to bias, and more. For example, Steven Schwartz prepared an entire case using ChatGPT. However, he later found out in court that the data given to him was incorrect. The AI platform simply created false cases and judgments, which led to the lawyer’s integrity and basic ability to fact-check being questioned in court.

All these instances indicate how important media literacy is. While the California state has passed the bill, it still requires improvements. These would be in the form of training teachers on the subject of media literacy, having an advisory committee, gauging the effectiveness of the measures, and more.

In summary, media literacy is imperative in the current landscape. While more features need to be added to the current bill, it is a step in the right direction.


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