The coronavirus pandemic has illustrated the ability of both social media and mainstream news coverage to amplify and exaggerate the influence of extremist groups that reject science-based policies, says Aengus Bridgman.
The Instagram post looked strange to Amulya Panakam, a 16-year-old high school student who lives near Atlanta. In February, a friend showed her a sensational headline on her phone that declared, “Kim Jong Un is personally killing soldiers who have Covid-19!” Of course, the news wasn’t real. “I was immediately suspicious,” Ms. Panakam said. She searched online and found no media outlets reporting the fake story. But her friends had already shared it on social media.
Ms. Panakam was startled by how often students “grossly handle and spread misinformation without knowing it,” she said. Yet media literacy is not part of her school’s curriculum.
So Ms. Panakam contacted Media Literacy Now, a nonprofit organization based near Boston that works to spread media literacy education. With its help, she wrote to her state and local representatives to discuss introducing media literacy in schools.
The subject was hardly new. Well before the internet, many scholars analyzed media influence on society. In recent decades, colleges have offered media studies to examine advertising, propaganda, biases, how people are portrayed in films and more.
But in a digital age, media literacy also includes understanding how websites profit from fictional news, how algorithms and bots work, and how to scrutinize suspicious websites that mimic real news outlets.
Now, during the global Covid-19 crisis, identifying reliable health information can be a matter of life or death. And as racial tensions run high in America, hostile actors can harness social media to sow discord and spread disinformation and false voting information, as they did in the 2016 elections and may well be repeating in the current elections.
Indeed, Facebook and Twitter recently shut down fake accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, backed by Russia. Twitter said this month that it suspended nearly 1,600 accounts, including some in Iran that “amplified conversations on politically sensitive topics” like race and social justice.
Online misinformation might seem like an incurable virus, but social media companies, policymakers and nonprofits are beginning to address the problem more directly. In March, big internet companies like Facebook and Twitter started removing misleading Covid-19 posts. And many policymakers are pushing for tighter regulations about harmful content.
What still needs more attention, however, is more and earlier education. Teaching media literacy skills to teenagers and younger students can protect readers and listeners from misinformation, just as teaching good hygiene reduces disease.
A RAND report last year said research showed signs that media literacy increases “resiliency to disinformation.”
Erin McNeill, the founder of Media Literacy Now, grew concerned when her young sons were exposed to sexist female stereotypes on television and in video games. She raised the issue to her son’s fifth grade teacher, who voluntarily created a media literacy unit that included analyzing those messages.
Going further, she said, “we need policy so it’s embedded in the education system,” and in 2011 she wrote to Massachusetts politicians and eventually got support from some, notably a state senator, Katherine Clark, who is now a representative in Congress.
Two years later Ms. McNeill founded Media Literacy Now, to help people in other states lobby policymakers. The organization’s online tool kit included templates for emailing to elected officials, alongside samples of policy documents, research papers and videos. Changes were already happening before Media Literacy Now was founded. Since 2008, 14 states have passed legislation supporting some form of media literacy in schools, potentially affecting tens of millions of students.
And media literacy is getting more support. Last year, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, introduced a bill calling for $20 million to fund media literacy education.
While that federal bill has little chance of passing, momentum has grown at the state level, and 15 states were considering media literacy bills this year. Media Literacy Now has influenced nearly 30 bills in 18 states since its founding.
In Connecticut, for example, it guided a group of African-American social workers who had founded a company named Welcome 2 Reality to seek new state laws that passed in 2015 and 2017. The state now requires schools to teach safe use of social media and also formed an advisory council on media literacy education that is drafting a baseline report.
Marcus Stallworth, a founder of the social workers’ group who has taught an elective titled “Social Media: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly” at the University of Bridgeport, saw how deeply media affected students. “Social media — anyone can say anything,” he tells them. He also asks them to consider who is disseminating information and what their intent might be. For example, are posts coming from an official source like the governor, or from a potential scammer?
After connecting with Media Literacy Now, the social workers realized that state education policies could have wider impact. Qur-an Webb, a member of Welcome 2 Reality who saw that ordinary citizens could influence lawmakers, concluded that “these are people we vote for — they should meet with us.”
There is no silver bullet for disarming misinformation. But states’ media literacy education policies typically include first steps, like creating expert committees to advise education departments or develop media literacy standards. Next come recommending curriculums, training educators, funding school media centers and specialists, monitoring and evaluation.
States set guidelines for education departments, although local districts often have final control of curriculums.
Even without legislation, teachers can incorporate media literacy concepts into existing classes or offer electives. At Andover High School in Massachusetts, Mary Robb has taught the subject for 19 years. As part of Media Literacy Now’s advocacy, she and her students testified at a Massachusetts State House hearing in 2013.
Ms. Robb now includes media literacy in civics classes, where students might analyze war propaganda and assess the credibility of websites. “‘Fake news’ is not news that you disagree with,” she emphasized.
At Swampscott High School in Massachusetts, Tom Reid has taught media literacy for 15 years and testified at the State House. He pointed out that lessons should focus on critical thinking, rather than being “too focused on simply trying to get students to reduce their screen time.”
Teaching resources already exist. News Literacy Project, for example, has a free 13-lesson online curriculum. Its lessons also cover topics like “deep fake” videos and the role of journalism in a democracy.
Other resources include Ground News, which compares reportage; Adfontes Media, which assesses the reliability of news sources; and Media Education Foundation, which makes documentaries about media’s impact.
Establishing policies is one important step, but Media Literacy Now does not track how they are carried out. “Just passing one bill does not necessarily mean the lessons are being taught,” Ms. McNeill said. “Advocacy still needs to be done.”
Many young people say media literacy is invaluable. Mr. Stallworth’s students said they wished they had learned about the subject earlier.
“Why are we waiting until they get to college?” Mr. Stallworth asked. “It makes more sense to introduce them much earlier.”
Ms. Yee is a journalist who has written about solutions to social problems in the United States, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe.
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Media Beat: November 30, 2020 | FYIMusicNews – FYI Music News
“We expect that 90% of households across the country will have access to fixed broadband Internet services that meet our universal service objective by the end of next year. As a country, we are on the right path to achieve this target. The percentage of homes and businesses with such connectivity had risen to 87.4% by the end of 2019…” – CRTC Chair Ian Scott (full text of address to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology last week)
Billionaire Elon Musk’s satellite internet service is now streaming to some homes in New Brunswick.
Starlink has enlisted some households in rural areas of Canada and the northern U.S. to test the service before a full launch, possibly in mid-2021. The cost of delivery is significant, however. – Connell Smith, CBC News
For the twelve months ended August 31, 2020 the Company generated revenues of $50.6M, operating expenses of $40.2M and Adjusted EBITDA of $10.4M from its continuing operations. Net income for the same period was $4.6M.
For the comparative twelve months ended August 31, 2019 the Company had revenues of $52.5M, operating expenses of $46.2M and Adjusted EBITDA of $6.3M from its continuing operations. Net income for the year was $2.9M. – Press release
The experimental series on monthly openings and closures now include monthly estimates of the number of business openings and closures, continuing businesses, and active businesses in the tourism industries at the national level from January 2015 to August 2020. These industries are based on Statistics Canada’s Canadian Tourism Satellite Account industry aggregations and include air transportation; water transportation; rail, scenic and sightseeing transportation; bus transportation, taxi and limousine services, and vehicle rental; accommodation; food and beverage services; recreation and entertainment; and travel services.
The new series show that the tourism industries are among those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While business closures doubled in the business sector from February to April 2020, the tourism sector as a whole had 11,020 closures in April, more than triple the number of closures in February. The most affected industries in the tourism sector were food and beverage services (+316.2%; +6,009), travel services (+314.6%; +310) and bus transportation, taxi and limousine services, and vehicle rental (+166.8%; +296). While business closures also increased in air transportation from February to April, the increase was smaller than in all other tourism industries. Since the peak in business closures in April, closures have declined across the tourism industries. As of August, business closures were below the pre-COVID level posted in February in all tourism industries.
The number of business openings in the tourism sector exceeded that of business closures in each of the last three months. Despite the openings, the number of active businesses in the tourism sector in August was 84.7% the level recorded in February. By comparison, the number of active businesses in the business sector in August was 91.0% the level reported in February.
Kelowna’s 103.9 CKOO-FM could be back on the air by the spring.
The CRTC has approved the purchase of the radio station’s broadcast license and assets by Paul Larsen for $500K.
His company, Radius Holdings, is purchasing the license from trustee Grant Thornton, which took possession of it when Soft 103.9 went bankrupt on March 31. – Colin Dacre, Kelowna News
Among the criteria set out in the proposed Consumer Privacy Protection Act and the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act, a firm must consider are the sensitivity of the personal information; whether the purposes represent legitimate business needs of the organization; the effectiveness of the collection, use or disclosure in meeting the organization’s legitimate business needs; whether there are less intrusive means of achieving those purposes at a comparable cost and with comparable benefits; and whether the individual’s loss of privacy is proportionate to the benefits in light of any measures, technical or otherwise, implemented by the organization to mitigate the impacts of the loss of privacy on the individual.
It also says firms must determine at or before the time of the collection of any personal information each of the purposes for which the information is to be collected, used or disclosed — and must record those purposes.
Section 13 says a firm can only collect the personal information that is necessary for those purposes. – IT World Canada
The Ongoing History of New Music hits 10M downloads
Having hit its 900th episode, the Alan Cross hosted podcast started in Jan. 2017 has now crossed the 10M download threshold–a phenomenal accomplishment by any standard. The podcasts originate from the radio show of the same name that first aired in 1993 on CFNY-FM in Toronto.
A few stats’n’facts provided by Cross:
When the program began, Kurt was still alive and Pearl Jam had just one album.
Except for hardcore computer nerds, no one knew about the internet or email.
The first hundred episodes were composed on a long-forgotten DOS word processor.
When Windows 3.1 came along, I switched to WordPerfect. The next 600 or so shows were written that way. I didn’t make the switch to Word until 2014.
For nearly a decade, the show only ran on 102.1 The Edge/Toronto. CFOX/Vancouver picked it up near the end of the 90s.
The show is now syndicated across the country.In addition to the hour-long shows are the 60-second daily features.
I’ve written over 7,000 of those.Craig Venn was the original technical producer working with old-school reel-to-reel tape. Rob Johnston took over at show 110 and has been with me ever since.
We transition to all-digital production in 1996.
Shows were first archived on reel-to-reel tape, then DAT, then CD-Rs. Now everything is archived digitally.
I used to record everything in the studios of 102.1 the Edge. Now I have my home studio. I just record my bits and upload them to Dropbox. Rob takes it from there, producing the programs and then distributing them to affiliates. He also takes care of the podcasts.
The podcasts have been downloaded in almost every country in the world with Canada in the lead, followed by the US, the UK, Australia, and Germany.
Among the countries immune to the shows’ charms are North Korea, Niger, Chad, and the Republic of the Congo. But we’re working on that.
Of the 900 Ongoing History radio programs aired since the program debuted in February 1993, approximately 250 have been repurposed as podcasts. We’ll eventually get more up there, but not all will make it because they’re just too dated.
Canada leads the way in downloads (no surprise there) with 8.3 million downloads. The US is in second spot with 1.12 million. Then comes the UK, Australia, Germany, France, New Zealand, Mexico, Ireland, and The Netherlands rounding out the top 10.Within Canada,
Ontario is the number one market, followed by BC and Alberta.
Toronto is in first place for downloads, followed by Hamilton and Vancouver.
In the US, the podcast is most popular in Buffalo followed by New York, Chicago, and bizarrely, Hutchison, Kansas, a city of 40,000 northwest of Wichita. The good citizens of Hutchison have downloaded more episodes than Los Angeles. We can’t explain that.
Moving to the UK, the leading city is London. Manchester comes second and Edinburgh is a close third.
The most-downloaded podcast of all time is “The Rise and Fall of Blink-182, Part 1,” which was published on January 31, 2017. In second spot is “Rock and Roll Myths” (March 15, 2017), and “60 Mind-Blowing Facts in 60 Minutes: The Fifth Edition” (December 18, 2019).
Most people get their OH fix through Spotify (16.9%) followed by Apple Podcasts (13%).When it comes to platforms for listening, iOS leads the way with 56.3%. Android is second with 26%.87.2% of listening is done on a mobile device while 9.1% listen on a desktop and 2.4% use a tablet.
The head of News Media Canada told a parliamentary committee Friday afternoon that despite the highest demand ever for news amid the pandemic, there is still little revenue in part because Google and Facebook are sucking up 80 per cent of digital ad revenues at the expense of Canada’s news outlets. – Jeremy Nuttall, The Star
Denham Jolly, Jackie Flanagan, Brian McFarlane, and Sarah Milroy are among the 114 names as new appointments by the Governor General.
After 25 years of writing Page Six, a must-read daily compendium for the Toronto Sun about the arts, media and politics, Dunford made his exit in July of 2005 after penning 7,127 columns for the paper. He was funny, sometimes abrasive, and always on top of what was going on in the city, the CBC and media in general. There’s a great synopsis about his career at the tabloid here, and Dunf in space is a blog where he regularly posts today.
You’d think by now “sophisticated” advertisers would have learned that the programmatic ad ecosystem is nothing but trash and trouble. But in the ad world, nobody learns anything.
A website called Adalytics ran a piece last week on how a Russian state-controlled news agency’s propaganda website called “Sputnik News” is being unwittingly supported by programmatic ad dollars from the likes of Harvard Business School, Adidas, American Express and, you can’t make this shit up, the US government. Read about it here. – Bob Hoffman, The Ad Contrarian
Ben, Brett and Jordan Meiselas have big plans to expand their media reach to counter Fox News. Since the Spring, Since the Spring, they have raised more than US$3 million in donations; grown from web-only videos to national television ads; turned a limited series on SiriusXM’s progressive politics station into a podcast deal with the digital giant, and are launching a student-run initiative called MeidasUniversity to encourage progressive advocacy on campuses across the country. – Ashley Cullins, The Hollywood Reporter
In a strongly-worded letter, the human rights NGO said that Google is “incentivised to merge and aggregate data across its different platforms” as a consequence of its surveillance-based business model. – ET Telecom
Australia’s parliament will launch an inquiry into media ownership, a prominent senator said, after more than half a million people signed a petition demanding a probe into Rupert Murdoch’s dominance of the news industry.
The online petition attracted a record number of signatories after being launched on October 12 by former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a frequent target of newspapers controlled by Murdoch’s News Corp.
Separately, Al Jazeera focusses on Murdoch media’s climate-change disinformation advocacy.
Three remarkable actress – Academy Award-winners Meryl Streep and Dianne Wiest, and Emmy Award-winner Candice Bergen – share the screen in a new film by director Steven Soderbergh, “Let Them All Talk,” an exercise in improvisation, in which its actors were required to create much of the dialogue themselves. Correspondent Rita Braver talks with the trio about the rarity of starring in a major Hollywood film about three women in their 70s.
Anti-mask fringe movement getting more media coverage than warranted: expert – Nipawin Journal
It only took 30 people dancing without masks last week in a Rosemère shopping centre for the anti-mask movement to make headlines across Quebec.
On Saturday, anti-maskers were in the news again when Quebec City police handed out 34 tickets to demonstrators protesting against anti-COVID-19 measures in front of the National Assembly.
And on Sunday, a small group of maskless protesters gathered outside a house in Westmount they believed was the home of Premier François Legault. Legault does not live in Westmount.
Now, a two-week-old anti-mask group is planning another flash mob in Laval on Dec. 6 or 12, and is asking people to shop without masks at a grocery store in Ste-Thérèse on Dec. 5, according to information posted on YouTube Friday. The group Sans Masque boasts 517 members in different regions of the province, according to another video.
But while news reports might give the impression the group is gaining momentum, it remains a fringe movement, said Aengus Bridgman, a PhD candidate at McGill University who studies online political participation.
“It’s really important to note that from 85 to 90 per cent of Canadians are wearing masks regularly,” Bridgman said.
The coronavirus pandemic has illustrated the ability of both social media and mainstream news coverage to amplify and exaggerate the influence of extremist groups that reject science-based policies, he said.
For example, the flash mob in Rosemère on Nov. 21 received widespread media exposure despite the small number of participants, he noted.
“I think it has received too much coverage,” he said.
Bridgman was among the authors of a McGill study released in July showing that Canadians who get their information from social media instead of traditional news sources are more likely to believe misconceptions about COVID-19.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit have enabled once-marginal movements to reach audiences numbering in the millions, he said.
The study surveyed 27,615 Canadians on where they got their news and on their attitudes toward COVID-19.
It also looked at how anti-intellectualism — the generalized distrust of experts and intellectuals — influences attitudes on the risk of contracting COVID-19 and prevention measures like mask-wearing and physical distancing .
Mainstream media are also contributing to the increased visibility of anti-mask groups, Bridgman said. One reason is that media constantly seek another side of every story as a means of advancing the news, he said.
For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, when health authorities around the world were counselling against the general public wearing masks, mainstream media outlets did reports suggesting masks could help prevent the spread of the virus. When governments switched course and called on citizens to don masks, the media raised questions about how effective mask-wearing was, Bridgman said.
There are no easy answers when it comes to combating misinformation on social media, he said. While Twitter flagged many tweets by U.S. President Donald Trump before and after the Nov. 3 election, rooting out false statements is not always feasible, he said.
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Law professor endured racist taunts in wake of social media clash with UCP staffers – Edmonton Journal
Article content continued
But Duane Bratt, political scientist at Mount Royal University, said the UCP government is using its own “hyper-partisan” press secretaries and issues managers to silence critics by focusing on party identity, labelling them as biased or affiliated with the NDP or prime minister.
“That allows the more unsavoury people to then go off with racist, homophobic, misogynist comments. Those are not coming from the premier’s office … but by coming out with partisan critiques, it opens the door and targets people that the more crazy ones will then go after you.”
Bratt doesn’t agree with comments Ogbogu made about the leak in Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s office, but criticizing his arguments is different than attacking him personally, he said.
In the 1980s in federal politics, the Liberals used some backbenchers as “attack dogs,” and Pierre Poilievre is used by Conservatives in a similar way. Now the UCP is putting its issues managers and press secretaries forward to fulfil a similar role, Bratt said.
“I think it is a deliberate strategy in distancing yourself in those sorts of attacks and using people like Matt Wolf as your pitbull, as your attack dog,” he said. “It’s a way of saying it’s not the leader, it’s these other people. This has always been a strategy, but instead of using … MLAs or backbenchers, you’re using political appointees.”
Bratt has been doing public commentary for decades, and he’s no stranger to people disagreeing with him. But he’s seeing more antagonism, in general, because of a divide in public opinion on pandemic and from COVID-19 deniers. He also sees more women and people of colour facing more pushback online.
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