Credit: Photo by Radek Kilijanek on Unsplash

A US University has launched a digital literacy programme with five media innovators in response to online misinformation.

The Information Futures Lab (IFL) at Brown University's School of Public Health aims to build and test solutions to issues that arise, in part, from digital media. That will cover how misinformation surfaces online, different ideas around how journalists can debunk it, and finally, how to get accurate information in front of hard-to-reach audiences.

"The IFL fellows are creative problem-solvers who are responding to urgent information challenges in real time”, says Claire Wardle, co-director and co-founder of the IFL, professor of the practice at Brown University, and the former director of the fact-checking organisation First Draft, in a press release.

"They are part of a growing number of innovators around the world who from their diverse vantage points are boldly creating new approaches to addressing the information crisis."

Read more: How journalists and academics can tackle misinformation together

Fellows joining in the new year will be: Adrienne Ammerman (WNC Health Network, US) to develop a community-based health information platform; Chris Chukwunyere (World Information Foundation, Nigeria) to debunk covid-19 myths for young people across different mediums; Kelly Perry (FHI360, Thailand), to collaborate with scientists and civil society in pursuit of the policy change and air pollution awareness; Lam Thuy Vo (CUNY, US), to combat crime misinformation on the social media app Neighbors; and Sophia Smith Galer (Vice News, UK), one of the best-known journalists on TikTok who plans to engage with secondary school students about how online content is created.

Samantha Stanley, deputy director, IFL singled out Smith Galer's offering as a unique programme that will tackle the root issue: "Many young people today glamorise a career as a social media influencer or popular content creator, but don't understand the full scope of what that entails.

"Her fellowship project will tap content creators to help young people understand the rewards, the hardships, and the risks of putting it all out there [on the internet].

"I expect that students who experience Sophia's programme will be better equipped to approach any pursuit of mass online following with much more awareness of the work involved, the responsibility to their audience, and an ability to practice self-care than they would have been able to otherwise."

Read more: Nine tips for journalists to get started on TikTok

Smith Galer, beyond being a popular TikToker with 450k followers and 13m likes, is also a journalist and author experienced with combating myths and misinformation. Her book, "Losing It: Sex education for the 21st century", challenges falsehoods and misconceptions around sexual health and relationships.

"Young people desperately want education and knowledge around real-world application and interaction when it comes to the good, bad and ugly of the internet," says Smith Galer, in an email to Journalism.co.uk.


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"They already know this is the arena in which we work and play, love and hate, often in a way in which there is sometimes disconnect between them and those teaching, them who didn't grow up with the same social media ecosystem.

"We also know that many teachers feel under-prepared when it comes to teaching about online harms, and much of the curricular material often focuses on risk mitigation as opposed to the positives that being online brings, too. Getting creators involved is an attempt to bridge that gap, share knowledge and begin to nurture circles of resilience for young people to empower them to use tech and social media for good."

This new cohort will join a group of three visiting fellows who started rapid pilots at the Lab in the fall semester: Kelsey Scott (Roots Community Health Center, US), Mark Scott (Politico, UK) and Elisabeth Wilhelm (UNICEF, US).

Fellows will focus the majority of their time on their projects while participating in weekly virtual meetups and two weeklong in-person IFL academies on the Brown University campus. They will then have the opportunity to interact with students and faculty.

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