30 September 2011

Truth, lies and the internet

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Truth, lies and the internet
The internet is the greatest source of information for people living in the UK today. But the amount of material available at the click of a mouse can be both liberating and asphyxiating. Although there are more e-books, trustworthy journalism, niche expertise and accurate facts at our fingertips than ever before, there is an equal measure of mistakes, half-truths, propaganda, misinformation and general nonsense. Knowing how to discriminate between them is both difficult and extremely important.

Truth, Lies and the Internet, a report published by the UK think tank Demos, examines the ability of young people in Britain to critically evaluate information they consume online. It reviews current literature on the subject, and presents a new poll of over 500 teachers. It finds that the web is fundamental to pupils’ school lives but many are not careful, discerning users of the internet. They are unable to find the information they are looking for, or trust the first thing they see. This makes them vulnerable to the pitfalls of ignorance, falsehoods, cons and scams.

This pamphlet recommends that teaching young people critical thinking and skepticism online must be at the heart of learning. Censorship of the internet is neither necessary nor desirable; the task instead is to ensure that young people can make careful, skeptical and savvy judgments about the internet content they encounter. This would allow them to better identify outright lies, scams, hoaxes, selective half-truths, and mistakes, and better navigate the murkier waters of argument and opinion.

Download report

> see also this short video report by the BBC

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