Guidelines on media literacy and how to spot fake news to be launched next year

Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran stressed the importance of education in fighting the scourge of online falsehoods, saying that an informed public is the first and most important line of defence against it.
Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran stressed the importance of education in fighting the scourge of online falsehoods, saying that an informed public is the first and most important line of defence against it.ST PHOTO: MATTHIAS CHONG

SINGAPORE - Public agencies, course providers and other organisations looking to teach people about media literacy and how to spot fake news will have a set of guidelines they can refer to next year.

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) is working with the National Library Board, the Infocomm Media Development Authority and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore to develop these guidelines.

Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran said on Friday (Nov 2) that this national framework for media literacy will be launched in the first half of 2019.

This was one of several educational initiatives he announced at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East's inaugural Service Learning Day, during which students conducted a series of events for senior citizens, including nail polishing services and a digital clinic on how to spot fake news.

In his speech, Mr Iswaran stressed the importance of education in fighting the scourge of online falsehoods, saying that an informed public is the first and most important line of defence against it.

"If each and every citizen understands that not all online information is authentic, and has the capacity and confidence to discern fact from falsehood, then, and only then, would Singapore truly be able to withstand this global threat," he said.

Mr Iswaran also announced that the Ministry of Education will be rolling out a New Media Literacies toolkit later this month in all primary and secondary schools and junior colleges to support teachers' efforts to teach students about how to be ethical consumers and producers of online content.

 

The toolkit will include lesson ideas, presentation slides and assessment items which teachers of all subjects can use to infuse their lessons with media literacy tips.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Iswaran highlighted the importance of surveys as well as gaining an understanding of trends and technologies, usage patterns and feedback, and the opinions and concerns of citizens.

“All these are ways for us to gain a better understanding of the lay of the land because that will then inform what we need to do, especially in terms of the effort pertaining to education and outreach,” he said.

“Because if we know that certain segments or perhaps certain channels pose particular challenges and difficulties, then that’s a group that we would want to make sure we allocate significant attention to, so that they are better equipped to deal with this challenge.”

He added that the Government will have to continuously revisit its efforts, to see whether its initiatives are effective and what else needs to be done.

Mr Iswaran also launched on Friday the fifth mini-campaign of this year's Better Internet Campaign.

This fifth instalment of the campaign, run by the Media Literacy Council, will reach out to mature adults and seniors with a short online video, social media games and quizzes and brochures to teach them how to identify fake news.

The initiatives announced by Mr Iswaran come after a parliamentary committee tasked to study the issue of fake news wrapped up its work in September with a report that included 22 recommendations on how Singapore should deal with the challenge.

These called for efforts to nurture an informed public, alongside other proposals to reinforce social cohesion and trust, promote fact-checking and deal with threats to national security and sovereignty.

Mr Iswaran said the Government is studying closely the suggestion for a fact-checking entity, and has begun consulting various parties to gather feedback and ideas on what form such an entity could take.