NLB push to arm public with critical thinking skills

The National Library Board is stepping up efforts to inculcate critical thinking skills across society, its director Wai Yin Pryke said on the sixth day of public hearings on deliberate online falsehoods.
The National Library Board's director Wai Yin Pryke (centre) at the hearing yesterday, with senior manager for engagement Sara Pek Leng Leng (far left) and assistant director for content and services, general reference, and statutory and digital cont
The National Library Board's director Wai Yin Pryke (centre) at the hearing yesterday, with senior manager for engagement Sara Pek Leng Leng (far left) and assistant director for content and services, general reference, and statutory and digital content Chow Wun Han.PHOTO: GOV.SG

The National Library Board (NLB) is playing its part in the fight against fake news by stepping up efforts to arm the public with critical thinking skills, its director Wai Yin Pryke said yesterday.

Such skills have never been more important, given how people are inundated with information, whether at work, school or play, she told the Select Committee on deliberate online falsehoods.

In 2013, NLB launched the Sure (Source, Understand, Research, Evaluate) campaign to raise public awareness of information literacy, working with the Ministry of Education on resources for schools and to conduct training workshops for teachers and parents.

The campaign has been expanded to inculcate information literacy skills among adults as well. For example, NLB will conduct talks for adults, especially seniors.

Ms Pryke said: "Senior citizens are a particularly vulnerable group. They tend to think that because something has been published, it must be true. So, the challenge is to help them be more discerning."

At the hearing, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary asked how NLB can close the gap between the sources of truthful material it curates and sources of fake news such as Facebook and WhatsApp, where it is not traditionally active.

Ms Pryke noted that libraries are very active on popular messaging app platform WeChat in China.

"I am thinking we may have to take a serious good look at how we can make sure we are present on those platforms where fake news dominates," she added.

Speaking on a separate panel yesterday, entrepreneur Hazrul A. Jamari, who runs an e-commerce business, suggested that the Singapore Government form a joint task force with its Malaysian counterpart to debunk online scams and falsehoods, which often transcend national borders.

Mr Hazrul, who has a Facebook page debunking false claims about halal-certified food, said that the Malaysian government has a website, sebenarnya.my, which runs articles debunking online falsehoods, but it is not well known.

Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim, a lawyer who was on the same panel, called for a multi-faceted approach that includes engaging with tech companies, using new technology such as blockchain to fight online falsehoods, refining the legal framework and inculcating online literacy among the public.

The father of three, who volunteers for charity and community organisations, said he felt moved to join the discussion on online falsehoods as he was concerned for future generations.

Representatives of inter-faith non-governmental group Roses of Peace, which aims to build a resilient society, suggested training young people to be "peace advocates" to tackle fake news.

They added that they will work with partners such as the Media Literacy Council to develop a "digital playbook". This will detail the strategies to identify fake news and counter its dissemination.

Public hearings to fight online falsehoods: Read the submissions here and watch more videos.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2018, with the headline 'NLB push to arm public with critical thinking skills'. Print Edition | Subscribe