'Fake news', disinformation and misinformation
The growth of the online space and the influence it has on our daily lives means that we are now receiving our news in different ways, such as through social media posts, online news outlets, and digital apps and platforms.
Disinformation is information that is not true and is shared and created with the intent to deceive and mislead. In contrast, misinformation is information that is not true, but it shared and created without the intent to mislead.
‘Fake news’ is a term commonly used to describe disinformation and misinformation that is being presented and shared as reputable news.
Misinformation and disinformation are utilised by a range of individuals and organisations, including political groups and extremists. They can use technology to make their content look like it has come from a trusted source and is backed up by factual evidence, and they can create numerous social media accounts to spread disinformation across the internet, making the content go viral. Through the use of things like predictive algorithms, these views can be spread directly to individuals who are most likely to spread and reinforce those messages.
Misinformation and disinformation can mislead learners, leading to a range of potential harms – including spreading hatred, intolerance, and mistrust. Extremists utilise disinformation, misinformation, and conspiracy theories to help gain increased exposure for their ideas, as well as attracting those with personal grievances who may be susceptible to their hateful narratives.
Resources, guidance, and support
The Department for Education has published advice on how to teach online safety in schools, including around teaching about disinformation and misinformation. This includes ensuring that learners know how to measure and check authenticity online, and the potential consequences of sharing information that may not be true.
Educate Against Hate has a number of resources that can help you and your learners understand more about fake news, misinformation, and disinformation, and how to effectively teach young people about media literacy, critical analysis, and how to manage news from online sources:
- Be Internet Citizens – Educate Against Hate
- Be Internet Legends – Educate Against Hate
- Identifying the Difference Between Fact and Opinion – Educate Against Hate
- Trust Me – Educate Against Hate
- Reliable News – Educate Against Hate
- Managing Feelings About the News – Educate Against Hate
The above resources may be used with your learners as part of their ICT or RSHE and Citizenship curriculum, as well as during registration time at the start of the day. Be Internet Citizens and Be Internet Legends can be used throughout ICT lessons to teach your learners about the importance of and practical tips related to staying safe from a range of online harms. Resources focusing on fact and opinion, the news and identifying reliable sources can be used during RSHE and Citizenship lessons and registration time to facilitate discussions around what young people might encounter in the news and providing them with the opportunity to learn about how to sensitively and confidently navigate their feelings and emotions around content that may be factually inaccurate.
If you’re concerned about the impact of teaching about these subjects on yourself, students or another member of staff, the Department for Education provides guidance to schools and colleges on promoting mental health and wellbeing.