Education better than just tech to combat fake news

Alphabet tiles that spell out fake news.
Alphabet tiles that spell out fake news.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

While it is necessary to leverage technology in the fight against fake news, it should not be placed front and centre, as argued by Professor Lim Sun Sun and Associate Professor Roland Bouffanais (How to fight fake news: Tech has the answers, July 9).

That role should be given to humans.

Diving deeply into technological remedies against fake news with minimal view of the human equation is misplaced.

Technology is constantly evolving, and each software upgrade can come with incremental or substantial improvement. But the cost of upgrading to the newest versions of technology may make leaning on a technological solution as a bulwark against fake news inherently unsustainable.

Software developers on both sides are constantly trying to be a step ahead of the other. While technology is being developed to detect deepfakes, perpetrators will also design ways to get around defences in an ongoing cycle.

It would be more pragmatic to put education for users front and centre instead of technology.

Critical thinking is probably the best defence against fake news and it can be taught.

Teach readers to think through comments and opinions comprehensively.

Teach users to adopt a healthy dose of scepticism when browsing news and attention-grabbing material.

Teach users to be mindful about sensational headlines, and to be aware of their emotions. Do they immediately get angry, upset or elated? Is it necessary to feel and act expediently?

Tan Kar Quan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2019, with the headline 'Education better than just tech to combat fake news'. Print Edition | Subscribe