Schools join fight against fake news
Polys, unis introduce courses to help students tell fact from fiction
To fight fake news, tertiary institutions have introduced lessons to help students differentiate fact from fiction.
Three polytechnics and three universities told The New Paper they recently introduced courses to tackle the growing problem, which has worsened globally.
This move is timely as the Government steps up its own battle against fake news (see report, above).
Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Business Management's senior lecturer, Mr Christopher Pang, said that last semester, the modules on media literacy and digital information literacy were modified to include an emphasis on fake news.
Students are taught to do credibility checks on sources, cross-referencing, and use of authoritative sources.
He explained: "As polytechnics emphasise applied learning through authentic situations, students play online sleuths (fact-checkers) to pick on cues and clues to uncover misinformation, misleading sources, incomplete truths and incorrect attribution."
At Singapore Polytechnic, the curriculum for its media and communication course was expanded in the last two years to include dealing with fake news.
These modules covering fake news are compulsory and see an intake of about 100 students a year.
Its senior lecturer, Ms Trudy Lim, who has been teaching the course for 10 years, said: "Younger Singaporeans depend on new media (and social media news feeds) for their news. This also means our young people need to be taught to be aware of the problem of fake news."
Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Film & Media Studies will have two new modules on contemporary media issues in April. During tutorials, the students might find examples of fake news and be equipped with basic fact-checking skills.
Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information said it has introduced the concept of fake news in a module called "Global Media Issues and Policy".
Assoc Prof Augustine Pang, professor of corporate communication (practice) at the Singapore Management University's Lee Kong Chian School of Business, said he is also adding fake news topics to two of his communication modules this year.
In August, the National University of Singapore (NUS) started a new module called "Fake News, Lies and Spin: How to Sift Fact from Fiction".
About 60 students took the module and another 100 are expected to take the module this semester.
NUS undergraduate Sean Lim, 22, who took the module last year, said: "We compared legitimate articles with fake ones and learnt to differentiate them through things like bylines, language and cross-referencing. I think that this module is imperative as it taught us to be discerning."
Govt to ask Parliament to tackle growing problem of ‘fake news’
Deliberate online falsehoods - fake news - could endanger lives and sow discord .
That is why the Government will ask Parliament on Wednesday to appoint a Select Committee to tackle this issue, according to a Green Paper released on Friday by the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Communications and Information.
The paper said that Singapore, given its global connections and diverse social fabric, was vulnerable to the threat of fake news. It gave the example of how between June 2015 and August last year, 126 million Facebook users in the US were exposed to more than 80,000 pieces of content from 470 accounts controlled by a foreign country wanting to sway the outcome of the US presidential election.
The Green Paper noted: "Political and social discourse can often be seriously influenced by deliberate falsehoods spread online. We should guard against this."
Communications experts said that while fake news might have seemed trivial earlier, it has evolved into a serious problem.
Singapore Polytechnic senior lecturer Trudy Lim, said: "Fake news has proliferated because of the emergence of click-bait journalism... more and more sensational (and fake) stories are being published online."
Dr Elmie Nekmat, assistant professor in Communications and New Media at NUS said "When people are exposed to fake news, it has a 'drip effect' where people build up ideas pertaining to the issue they read."
He said media literacy courses dealing with misinformation can be taught to secondary and even primary school students. "It is good for schools to engage the young about this," he said.