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Schools need to teach media literacy

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Seattle School District, with a 2022 operating budget of $1.14 billion, is taking the social-media giants ­TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat to court, accusing them of harming young minds, worsening mental health and creating behavioural disorders including anxiety, depression, disordered eating and cyberbullying.

There’s not much doubt that the school district is justified in its concern that social-media ­platforms create a fire hose of content aimed directly at ­children, flooding them with misinformation and information designed to persuade and confuse.

But bear in mind that the social-media giants enjoyed combined total ad revenue for 2022 of $173 billion with 4,88 billion social-networking accounts, making a single school district look and sound like the mouse that roared.

So good luck with that court case, Seattle.

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Instead, could we talk about putting some funding into K-12 media education?

According to an article titled “Learning and­ ­Teaching Media Literacy in Canada” by Michael ­Hoechsmann, chair of education programs at ­Lakehead University in Orillia, Ont., there are a few exceptional programs in certain schools in Canada and the U.S. but, “in general, media literacy is one domain of study where the variety of approaches and outcomes is extraordinary.”

That’s what makes New Jersey so interesting as the first state to mandate, under a bill signed recently by Governor Phil Murphy, that school ­districts teach media-literacy skills to students at every grade level, from K-12, as a way to combat misinformation.

According to Sherri Hope Culver, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the director of the university’s Center for Media and Information Literacy, media literacy is about ­“understanding the influence media has in our lives and the need to apply critical thinking to our ­involvement with media and to understand how to communicate using it.”

Another influential voice, Olga Polites, the leader of the New Jersey chapter of the non-profit advocacy group Media Literacy Now, points out that: “If we can ensure that our K-12 students learn the critical­ ­thinking skills necessary in order to be able to ­identify credible sources of information, to ask questions and to create their own information, we would really be moving the needle on helping them become more ­civically responsible citizens.”

Examples of media-literacy skills in higher grades include the ability to distinguish scholarly from ­non-scholarly sources, critique author motivations, and to understand logical fallacies used by media sources to develop false arguments.

Dr. Chris Drew, the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, says media-literacy education involves, among other things, teaching kids how to check if a media source is ­reliable.

Then there is detecting the use of loaded or ­emotionally charged words, such as “disaster” or “amazing” or absolute terms, like “all” or “none” and that politician’s favourite “everybody tells me,” which is only relevant if backed up by solid data.

Appeals to authority can be equally misleading if the authority being quoted has no expertise in the actual issue at hand.

We’re in a new age of uncurated, unedited, freely available information and disinformation, and ­educators find themselves behind the proverbial eight ball as they search for ways to help students negotiate everything from internet hoaxes to partisan advocacy disguised as unbiased news.

The New Jersey program, when implemented, will be K-12. But aren’t children K-3 a bit young for this stuff?

Not really, say the experts. Students in the primary grades are already active users of digital technologies and younger children (in kindergarten and Grade 1) sometimes have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality and tend to accept what they see at face value.

In grades 2-3, students are still not yet able to think critically about technology, but are starting to ­integrate computers and the internet into their daily lives. In 1976, Hugh Rank, a sociologist who analyzed persuasion, wrote: “The professional persuaders have the upper hand: money, media access, sophisticated personnel utilizing scientific techniques, aided and abetted by psychologists and sociologists. On the other side there are the persuadees and there is no coherent, systematic effort in the schools today to prepare our future citizens for a sophisticated literacy.”

So listen up Seattle: Today’s kids will be ­grandparents by the time your case stumbles through the halls of justice. Take a look instead at programs like New Jersey’s, which may do some good in the now.

gfjohnson4@shaw.ca

Geoff Johnson is a former superintendent of schools.

 

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Elon Musk Warned About Incoming EU Social-Media Law – The Wall Street Journal

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Elon Musk has said that he intends to comply with the EU’s new rules governing social media.

Photo: Benjamin Fanjoy/Associated Press

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BRUSSELS—A top European Union official told
Elon Musk

on Tuesday that Twitter Inc. will have to do more over the coming months to prepare for the bloc’s new social-media regulations.

Thierry Breton,
the EU’s commissioner for the internal market, told Mr. Musk during a video call that there were only a few months left before major online platforms like Twitter will have to be fully compliant with the Digital Services Act. Mr. Musk has previously said that he intends to comply with the EU’s new rules.

“The next few months will be crucial to transform commitments into reality,” Mr. Breton said, according to a summary of the call provided by his office. “We need to see progress towards full compliance with the DSA. My team will follow closely the work by Twitter and by all other online platforms.”

The call with Mr. Musk was constructive and delved further into details than previous meetings, an aide to Mr. Breton said. The aide said the conversation lasted more than an hour.

The European Commission, which is responsible for enforcing the DSA, expects to conduct what it referred to as a stress test on Twitter in the coming weeks, according to the summary of the call. Such a test might involve a meeting between Twitter and commission officials to look in detail at which elements of Twitter’s practices are compliant, or not, with the new legislation, the aide to Mr. Breton said.

Following Tuesday’s discussion with Mr. Breton, Mr. Musk wrote on Twitter that the EU’s “goals of transparency, accountability & accuracy of information are aligned with ours.” He also said the company’s crowdsourced fact-checking feature, called Community Notes, would be “transformational” when it comes to ensuring accurate information.

Messrs. Musk and Breton have held similar conversations in the past. Last fall, Mr. Breton said he informed Mr. Musk that Twitter would need to make significant changes to comply with the new EU legislation. The DSA will require major social-media platforms and search engines, including Twitter, to swiftly address illegal content and conduct regular risk assessments beginning later this year.

The law carries hefty fines for noncompliance and the potential to block a platform’s services in case of certain repeated infringements.

Officials in Europe raised questions last year about how Twitter could comply with the new EU law after widespread layoffs and departures left the company’s Brussels office empty and thinned the ranks of staffers responsible for content moderation.

The DSA’s requirements for large social-media companies include maintaining systems for taking down content that European national governments consider to be illegal and providing users with tools to appeal if they believe material they posted was removed unfairly. It also requires regular outside audits.

Mr. Musk has said Twitter should comply with local laws but generally not take steps beyond that in moderating online content.

Twitter has in recent months reinstated a number of users’ accounts, including that of former President
Donald Trump,

that were previously suspended because of the content they had posted.

Write to Kim Mackrael at kim.mackrael@wsj.com

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We Are Misusing Social Media – WSJ – The Wall Street Journal

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Photo: Yui Mok/Zuma Press

There is a glaring omission in Suzanne Nossel’s list of possible solutions for the dilemmas caused by social-media use (“There’s No Quick Fix for Social Media,” Review, Jan. 21). Rather than depending on lawmakers or platforms to change, media-literacy education has been shown to help people understand how they use these platforms and how the platforms use them. Critical analysis of the algorithms and economic structures can help citizens become active, empowered users rather than victims of harassment and disinformation. These conversations should happen in classrooms and at kitchen tables. We may not be able to outlaw social-media platforms, but media literacy can help us outsmart them.

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Julie Smith

St. Louis

Might part of the issue be that people now go to church, seek information about knitting, form groups and seek pornography all from the same place? Imagine trying to set unified governing rules for a church, a group of grandmas, the Federalist Society and an explicit-video store. That is what Meta, Reddit and the like have become. Perhaps we need more competition in the name of specialty community platforms.

Christina Moniodis

Miami

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Seychelles media guide

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Locals shopping at the farmers' market in Victoria
Locals shopping at the farmers’ market in Victoria

Media pluralism, diversity of opinion and the capacity to tackle major issues have been developing in Seychelles media over the past decade or so.

Since the introduction of the multiparty politics, the practice of self-censorship has slowly dissipated. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says that state-owned media outlets no longer shy away from criticising the government or from reporting on corruption.

In October 2021, the national assembly decriminalized defamation.

BBC World Service (106.2 MHz) and Radio France Internationale are available on FM.

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There were 71,000 internet users by December 2021, comprising 72% of the population (Worldinternetstats.com).

  • SBC TV – state-run, operated by Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC)
  • TéléSesel – launched in 2017, is the country’s sole private network

 

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