Singaporeans complacent in dealing with falsehoods, believe others more susceptible: IPS study

The study also suggested targeted and tiered digital literacy programmes. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Public messaging should appeal to Singaporeans that while no one is immune to false information, everyone should and can play a role in fighting falsehoods, said local researchers in a study on how people verify false information.

They noted that Singaporeans have a sense of complacency that others are more susceptible to false information than them. Singaporeans are also apathetic about being more proactive in calling out false information circulated in their social networks.

On Wednesday (Feb 23), Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) senior research fellow Carol Soon, who led the study, shared its findings and laid out several policy recommendations that focus on digital literacy efforts.

The researchers also felt there was a need for people to be equipped with the soft skills to correct others sensitively and effectively when others share false information, as a majority of study participants had said they would just ignore false information from social contacts.

One reason is they do not feel false information is a big problem in Singapore, and another is that they feel the Government has the tools to effectively stop the problem, said Dr Soon, who also heads IPS' society and culture department.

She added: "The next and very commonly cited reason was oftentimes people did not want to intervene because they did not want to lose their social capital. They did not want to incur the displeasure or the wrath of people in their social networks."

The study also suggested targeted and tiered digital literacy programmes.

For example, those who are savvier can be given the opportunity to pick up higher-order skills and knowledge, such as how to deal with ambiguous information, while more basic and foundational programmes are offered to others.

The researchers proposed that more digitally savvy seniors be recruited as trusted information nodes in their social circles that other seniors can turn to. Seniors struggled the most with recalling information learnt about digital literacy, compared with other age groups, according to the study.

For the younger generation, fact-checking techniques and skills can be included in the Cyber Wellness in Character and Citizenship Education curriculum in secondary schools and junior colleges.

Another set of recommendations focused on the expansion of digital literacy efforts.

The researchers suggested that digital literacy curricula include hands-on exercises and adopt a more contextualised approach in teaching how to evaluate sources in different information environments - such as legacy media versus social media.

They said there needs to be increased familiarity and knowledge of fact-checking websites such as https://www.gov.sg/factually and Snopes.com so people will be encouraged to use them.

Some participants in the study did not know of these fact-checking websites, while others deliberately chose not to click on them because they thought these could be suspicious sites, said Dr Soon.

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