Building resilience to overcome vulnerabilities generated by the misuse of the information in democratic societies
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) organizes annually the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) . In general, ODIHR provides support, assistance, and expertise to participating States and civil society to promote democracy, rule of law, human rights and tolerance and non-discrimination.
The Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union (first semester 2019) and the current Finnish Presidency decided to set among their priorities monitoring of possible threats to democratic processes to enhance resilience and counter hybrid threats. Attention was paid to institutional and societal strengths in the face of these challenges to democratic societies. Through education, an increase of media literacy, and awareness-raising campaigns, including at the local level, individuals, and especially vulnerable groups such as young people learn to identify defective or fabricated information, strengthen their civic trust and build their resilience. At the same time, it strengthens the resilience of our societies as a whole to such threats.
Romanian and Finnish presidencies organized a side event on the 17.9.2019 about “Building resilience to overcome vulnerabilities generated by the misuse of the information in democratic societies”. I was invited to give a short talk about the collaboration project between Finnish Faktabaari and the French-Finnish school of Helsinki. The event was moderated by Rauno Merisaari, Finnish Ambassador for Human Rights and Democracy.
The Side Event invitation text gave scope for the discussions:
“Largescale disinformation, manipulation of information, malinformation, incitement to hate, outright false information are all increasingly and overwhelmingly affecting democratic societies and the citizens’ ability to form their own views and take informed decisions, without any undue interferences and to express their choice, including through free and fair elections. These new challenges weaken democratic processes and institutions, affect the cohesion of democratic societies, erode the trust of citizens in democratic institutions and ultimately, raise concerns related to our common security. Therefore, we need to build our resilience by harnessing the instruments we already have and by preparing together for the already existing but also potential threats of tomorrow.”
Here is my speech in the event:
How to build up resilience among school aged youngsters? – Finnish approach
Education could be the key to creating resilience to overcome vulnerabilities generated by the misuse of the information in democratic societies – but we have to provide schools, teachers, and students with the right type of information, training, resources, and support.
Statement 1: Media and information literacy should be included in the national curriculum. That is the most effective and systematic way to guarantee, that teachers will deal with the matter at the school level.
This is the case in Finland. The media and information literacy is well presented in the national curriculum as well as the development of critical thinking and active citizenship competences. But there is still a gap between the theory and practice.
Statement 2: Teachers should be trained to deal with information disorder and they should have an updated set of tools and methods at their disposal.
According to our experience, teachers need in-service training to deal with the increase in the quantity of information and diversification of the variety of sources. Also, the media landscape is re-shaping constantly and it has become more and more difficult to distinguish information from disinformation.
Statement 3: An interaction between journalists, media experts, and schools is warmly recommended.
The basic idea of the Faktabaari EDU project was to adapt the proved fact-checking methods used by professional fact-checkers into the education field. We have piloted these adapted methods successfully since 2017. We have published simple tools for teachers and educators to deal with information disorder and we have organized plenty of workshops, school visits, etc. to scale up the best practice tools for a larger public.
In 2018 we published the first edition of the “Elections approach – are you ready? Fact-checking for educators and future voters”. Our voter literacy toolkit is compatible with the “European approach to tackle online disinfomation” where European Commission communication “encourages independent fact-checkers and civil society organisations to provide educational material to schools and educators”
Statement 4: Schools should provide students with media and information literacy skills so that they would be able to make their decisions based on facts – not on mis-, dis- or malinformation.
At present FaktabaariEDU is developing new materials for teachers related to “Digital self-defense skills”. The approach could also be called as Internet literacy. We focus specially on the following 10 concepts:
- There is a need to analyse the media use and media scene of the youngsters. The right question is: “Where do they get their news and information from?”
- It is necessary to share information about ethical principles of journalism.
- We have noticed, that there is a need to clarify the concept of “Science > opinion”
- Algorithm awareness is crucial for understanding the functioning of social media platforms – be aware of our own information “bubbles”.
- Fake news is not a good term – it is misused so heavily. Dis- mis and malinformation definitions have shown to be useful and understandable concepts. We also provide information about different types of misleading information and information disorders
- Disinformation awareness. Many people think that they can pick up easily disinformation. That is not true. Stanford study showed that even high school student have difficulties identify the difference between a mainstream and fringe source.
- Introduction of how do real fact-checkers work? We have used with success e.g. A positive example of Greta case.
- Empower students to check the facts themselves by using simple methods, check-lists, and other tools.
- Provide teachers and students with easy-to-use tools to check the authenticity of photos or videos
- Reflect on privacy awareness and ethical reflection about data. Which data do I want to share about myself? We encourage teachers and students to take ownership of their own data.