Context And Need: A Global Crisis of Misinformation

Media illiteracy is a pervasive and destructive global infodemic (WHO). Here in the US, climate denial, “stop the steal” insurgency and vaccine refusal are locking us into crises of ecology, democracy and health. We are in a death grip of misinformation, spread by the politicians and social media that call the news industry “fake news” and help sever the public’s trust in sources that could validate or debunk false claims.

For an example, The News Literacy Project’s The Sift documents the depth of misinformation impact in the US regarding Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” Propaganda:

Misinformation swept across podcasts, Facebook — as documented in this new investigation by ProPublica and The Washington Post — and other social media platforms ahead of the attack, allowing false narratives to take root and spread.

Misinformation is spread by algorithms on social media that favor content that creates emotional engagement and responses. These algorithms are hijacked by bad actors. #BareShelvesBiden is an example campaign. Most people are not aware of how their beliefs and sense of self are being programmed by manipulation of social media algorithms, engaging with feeds as ‘the news of the day’.

This rise of misinformation’s influence by social media algorithms and their manipulation corresponds to declining trust in journalistic standards, again shared by the News Literacy Project:

This short video from the Pew Research Center examines declining trust in news and shows how changes across the news industry in recent decades have impacted this dynamic. … News engagement saw a steep decline last year compared to 2020, including drops in cable news primetime viewership, news app downloads, news website visits and social media interactions with news articles.

If public schools were better at helping students discern fact from fiction, understand how journalistic standards work, and care about their responsibility to be informed citizens in a democracy, we would not be here.

Pew Research Video: Do Americans Trust the News Media?

2022 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report_Final

Slides converted without edits from Edelman Trust Barometer Slides (PDF) - see Full Report.