Campaign empowers youngsters to spot fakes

Bee Secure's new campaign aims to empower young people to identify and respond appropriately to disinformation Shutterstock

Bee Secure's new campaign aims to empower young people to identify and respond appropriately to disinformation Shutterstock

Curbing the spread of deliberately misleading information, or disinformation, by empowering Luxembourg’s population is the goal of a new yearlong campaign launched by the national education platform Bee Secure.

Launched on Wednesday, #Checkyourfacts aims to raise the curtain and expose those who use the internet as a stage to deliberately mislead by equipping young people with the skills and tools to detect fakes.

The thrust of the campaign is a two-hour, interactive session for secondary school children in year 7 focusing on four activities, including one in which young people are asked to come up with their own disinformation for a fictitious Instagram post, to see how easy it is to mislead. Young people will practise asking three key questions when confronted with suspicious online content, will be shown real examples of disinformation that was spread through social media, and receive an introduction to artificial photos and deep fake video technology.

“It’s so amazing how far technology is already now […] You’re not really able to say whether it’s true or not,” Bee Secure training coordinator Judith Swietlik told Delano on Wednesday. “This is where the three questions are very important for us: who is behind the information? Is the source trustworthy? And what do other sources say about it?”

The training will also be available on demand for other classes and there will be an introduction to the theme in primary schools, as Swietlik observes, children as young as 8 now have access to their own smartphones. The training will be adapted for adults. Bee Secure has also put together a teaching resource pack for teachers and people working with young people to work on the theme independently of their trainers.

“Studies show that young people need these competencies to deal with the mass of information they are confronted with online,” Bee Secure project manager Jeff Kaufmann told Delano. “If you look at young people they like having easy answers to difficult topics. Lots of this information, like conspiracy theories, give that. That’s why we need to talk to young people, tell them to be critical and to check a simple topic from different points of view,” he said. Kaufmann said he was personally engaged in the project having grown up in the internet age and witnessed online hate speech, or disinformation about refugees, for example. He became active by challenging these comments and responding with facts.

Kaufmann explained further that the campaign will seek to encourage young people to take action when they see content that could qualify as illegal, and to report it to the helpline. “We will check if it’s illegal and report it to the authorities. The people responsible could be prosecuted afterwards. There have been prosecutions in the past that resulted from reports made to our stopline. It clearly works,” he said.

The project’s primary focus is young people and their entourage and is supported by postcards, posters and screen wipes, reiterating the three prompt questions for a critical response to online content. However, Bee Secure does not neglect older internet users and the training will be incorporated into the efforts of its Silver Surfer activity branch, aimed at retired or senior citizens.

In addition, Bee Secure is working in partnership with Zentrum fir politesch Bildung (Centre for Political Education), which will organise activities and the creation of a guide dedicated to political disinformation.

You can read the first Bee Secure information pack on disinformation here in French and German.