Media Literacy in the Current Age
Focusing on the Risks of Cognitive Biases
In an age where information is abundant, unreliable news proliferates. As technology evolves and becomes a major social issue, how should we deal with it? This week’s scanning focuses on “Media Literacy Required Now.”
Firstly, why do we believe in unreliable news? A significant factor is ‘cognitive bias,’ which leads us to judge things based on preconceptions.
For example, someone who is negative about accepting refugees might easily believe news stating, “The local government is burdened,” without verifying its truthfulness. This shows the risk of evaluating information through a biased filter.
Impulsive judgments also require caution. Here, let’s refer to an experiment conducted by American media NPR on April Fool’s Day. In 2014, NPR posted a link to the article titled “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?” on Twitter. However, clicking the link revealed a message saying, “Please don’t comment on this page if you’ve seen it.” Despite this, numerous discussion comments were posted in the thread, showing that it’s common to judge based on partial information.
While cognitive biases have the advantage of making decision-making efficient, they can become significant barriers in correctly judging information. Eliminating cognitive biases may be challenging, but recognizing their existence and taking the first step to evaluate information correctly is crucial.
Gaining Trust as a Communicator
How do communicators gain trust in the modern era? Whether they are influencers on social media or leaders of organizations like teachers or CEOs, trust from others is crucial. But how can one as a communicator be trusted by others? This time, we’ll explore ways to gain trust in online business as a hint.
Here are some points for gaining trust on social media:
Providing Valuable Experiences
Audiences seek content worth watching. Focusing solely on capturing their attention without providing value can gradually drive them away.
Utilizing Social Proof
People tend to trust the opinions of those they know. For instance, interacting with many people on social media can enhance the sense of security as a communicator.
To be taken seriously by the audience, high-quality content must be provided. Using credible research as data backing can help maintain the transparency of the content.
Audiences do not favor ambiguous content. One should take responsibility for their statements and provide content from a clear perspective or standpoint.
These points, primarily for behavior on social media, are also crucial for communicators in the real world. As the author of this article, I aim to keep these points in mind to be trusted.
Navigating Information Society Through Facts
Fake news lurks around us. What should we believe and doubt on the internet?
Generally, relying on credible information resources and first-hand information from direct experiences, own research, and public institutions (primary information) is effective. Doubting overly conciliatory expressions and definitive statements is also helpful. These measures are gradually becoming foundational digital literacy.
However, it’s a fact that fake news reaches us more easily than true news. A study analyzing over 100,000 Twitter posts revealed that it takes six times longer for the truth to reach 1,500 people than fake news. Moreover, fake news is 70% more likely to be spread than the truth.
In response, Safer Internet Association (SIA) established the “Japan Fact-Check Center” on October 1 last year.
The center collects information and publishes its veracity on their website, attempting to prevent social unrest caused by incorrect information, such as false information about COVID-19.
Its main activity is publishing fact-check articles on its website “Facts matter.“, scrutinizing dubious information circulating on social media, and fact-checking whether it is true or false. The fact-checking system consists of an “Audit Committee,” “Management Committee,” and an “Editorial Department.”
Internationally, research is also being conducted to detect false information using algorithms. This involves modeling communication on social media as a network and analyzing connections between engagements to identify spreaders of false information.
As global politics fluctuate and propaganda-driven fake news becomes more prevalent, websites and algorithms for verifying truthfulness will likely gain more attention.
How Young People Engage with News in the Digital Age
During my exchange in Denmark last year, I was surprised to find that the mainstream social media among local students was Facebook. In Japan, Facebook seemed to be used more by older generations, making it interesting to see such a difference in social media culture.
With platforms like Instagram and TikTok, where scrolling casually can expose one to various information, where do young people get their news, and how do they engage with the influx of information?
According to a 2019 Digital News Report survey, among 18-24-year-olds, or ‘social natives’ (those raised in an internet environment), many consume news on Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube. Particularly, TikTok’s use as an information resource has increased fivefold over three years since 2020. These networks are favored for their personalized and diverse information compared to television and as resources for rapidly changing events like the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
However, interest and trust in news continue to decline among the young. Those under 35 have the lowest trust level, and the number of social natives avoiding news has significantly increased. Raised in the digital age, they have been taught to be critical of the information they consume, often approaching it skeptically.
Young people also feel that news negatively affects their mood, especially biased political reporting and the reality of being powerless against significant issues. However, a study also found that those who trust online information feel less stressed. As a social native, I feel tested on how to discern and consume these conflicting pieces of information. Personally, I verify the reliability by checking research institutions and authors’ profiles.
In this digital age, building a healthy relationship with media is necessary. As social media users, finding approaches and stress-free methods that suit us is important. Moreover, self-defense skills in accurately discerning information will become increasingly vital.