Students learn to tackle fake news and online scams in N.E.mation! workshop

The workshop is organised by the Media Literacy Council as part of the annual N.E.mation! contest to raise awareness about misleading or false information and online scams. ST PHOTO: SYAZA NISRINA

SINGAPORE - Secondary 1 student Albert Loh says his grandmother often gets phone calls from people who claim to be the police. Speaking to her in Mandarin, they try to get her to divulge personal information.

After attending a workshop on tackling fake news and online scams on Monday (Sept 3), the 13-year-old from Greendale Secondary School plans to share the tips he learned with her as well as his family and neighbours.

The Media Literacy Council organised the workshop as part of the annual N.E.mation! contest to raise awareness about misleading or false information and online scams. It was held at the Pixel Building in Buona Vista.

At Monday's workshop, 13 students from five secondary schools learned how to identify fake news and common online scams, as well as handle cyberbullying.

They received advice such as checking whether a story online has an exaggerated or "clickbait" headline, and if multiple reputable news outlets have reported the same story.

Albert said he learnt about an incident in 2015 when a Filipino family supposedly complained about the playing of drums during Thaipusam, which turned out to be untrue.

"If we know that's fake news, our community will be stronger and won't be suspicious of one another, and (this can) prevent racial tensions," he said.

N.E.mation! is an annual contest in which students can express their ideas on Total Defence by making short animation clips.

Now in its 13th year, it is organised by Animagine and Nexus, the Ministry of Defence department responsible for Total Defence and National Education.

Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Psalm Lew, director of community engagement at Nexus, said: "New threats like fake news can cause unrest that weakens the social cohesion of Singaporeans.

"The Media Literacy Council visit aims to raise participants' awareness in this area, and to highlight the part every Singaporean has to play."

In a statement on Monday, the Media Literacy Council said it hoped that through the workshop, students understand the motivations behind the creation of disinformation and the consequences of spreading it.

"We also hope that students have learned how to discern online falsehoods, develop fact-checking habits and share what they have learned with their family and friends," it added.

About 150 students taking part in the contest visited partner organisations such as the Singapore Red Cross and Nee Soon South Community Club on Monday. They learned how the work of these organisations helps to keep Singapore safe.

Registration for N.E.mation! 2019 started in July. Winners will be announced in February next year.

A team of four CHIJ Katong Convent students taking part in the contest came up with the idea of five Singaporeans playing a video game called Total Defence Warriors, with each of them representing a different pillar of Total Defence.

Said team member Olivia Tan, 14, who is in Secondary 2: "In the end, they group together to defeat an evil monster called Crisis, because together (the pillars) keep Singapore strong."

Mr Shem Yao, 37, who conducts workshops with Touch Cyber Wellness, spoke about cyberbullying.

"We're here to share with students how important it is to create a positive online culture of participation. This is important because it affects the society at large, and it is in line with social and psychological defence," he told the students.

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