The Internet and digital technologies have rapidly developed in recent years. The cutting-edge communications technologies have brought a lot of convenience to human societies, but in the past few years they have fueled misinformation, fake news, political propaganda, hate speech and commercial fraudulent manipulation. Social networking sites have trapped Netizens in the echo chamber, causing polarization in public opinion and creating social rips. The world has rapidly marched into the so-called “post-truth era.” If these problems are not solved, the situation may deteriorate further as we step into the “all Internet world.”
It is no wonder that UNESCO raised the emergency slogan “Critical Minds for Critical Times,” urging the media to play a role of building a peaceful, just and inclusive society and holding the “Media and Information Literacy and Cross-Strait Initiative (MILID) on the theme “Media and Information Literacy in Critical Times: Re-Imagining Ways of Learning and Information Environments” (UNESCO, 2017). Global media educators need to explore ways to use different approaches to media and information literacy education (MIL Education) in a variety of settings. About 200 media literacy and information literacy experts, coming from 40 countries, gathered in Jamaica by the end of 2017 to exchange views on this important issue.
At present, all walks of life have tried their best to prevent the false news from spreading. In some countries, the government considered legislation and criminalized the delivery of false news. However, some scholars worry that doing so would undermine freedom of speech. The other is to call for media and social networking sites to step up self-regulation, with Facebook and Google promising to take counter-measures on counterfeit news, but seeming no success and their sincerity being questioned. Some news agencies set up a verification team to verify the news, but need to use a lot of human resources. It is then believed that the more effective way to fight against fake news is to educate the audiences. MIL education should be able to cultivate media-and-information-literate citizens and contribute to the battle against misinformation and fake news.
Media and Information Literacy (MIL) are the combined capabilities of Media Literacy, Information Literacy and ICT. It means to search, evaluate, use and create media messages and information efficiently from any platform (Internet, media, library, museum, database, etc.).
In the post-truth era, MIL educators encourages young people to be responsible global citizens. New technologies have improved human livelihood and built smart cities. But there are also many negative effects that threaten the well-being of humankind and bring modern society to a “critical time.” How could we free the “all Internet world” from chaos in information in the future? It is believed that MIL advocates need to continue their efforts globally.
Prof. Alice Lee, Professor and Department Head
Department of Journalism, Hong Kong Baptist University