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MIL 2023 – Penplusbytes widens fake news fight to the young and illiterate.

Penplusbytes has widened its scope in tackling the worrisome explosion of fake news as it deploys education, advocacy and sensitization to schools, Persons With Disability and the illiterate who remain vulnerable and succeptible to questionable digital content creators.

This year’s commemoration which was launched for the first time in the Ashanti Regional capital Kumasi, enjoyed the partnership of the Department of Communication Studies of the University of Ghana, UNIMAC-Ghana Institute of Journalism, and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE).

Global MIL 2023 saw a concentration of media engagements through compelling radio drama as well as radio and television interviews held in diverse languages on strategically selected media houses.

The core of the conversations and themes bordered on sharpening citizen consciousness about fake news; tools to fact-check misinformation and disinformation as well as the knowledge required to identify fact from opinion.

Leaving No One Behind

To target a greater number of youth who form the core mass of social media enthusiasts, Penplusbytes visits to some Senior High Schools coupled with an online awareness campaign went viral with MIL fun facts with the hashtags #SpotTheFake, #ThinkCritically and #ClickWisely.

He emphasized, “For us at Penplusbytes we believe no one should be left behind so we have worked with persons with disability and now our focus is diving down to school children.”

Explaining the motivation for expanding its scope, Executive Director with Penplusbytes, Jerry Sam told Ultimate news, his outfit deems Media and Information Literacy an essential component for Education for all.

“How do we get them to know which platforms to access? How do we get them to critically analyze what they see especially in this day and age of fake news and deep fakes? How do we get them to sit back and reflect when they use gadgets? and how do we get them to take action when they see information which is not good so they don’t share it with their friends?” he queried.

Jerry Sam proposed that the Ghana Education Service and the Ministry of Education makes Media and Information Literacy a core component of the academic work of students.

“Penplusbytes has developed learning hubs and MIL games and we feel that if the GES and the Ministry adopts some of our strategies, we will have a critical mass of the youth and children who know and understand how to safely and responsibly navigate the media space,” he requested.

“It is to emphasize the fact that MIL helps us to navigate the deluge of information we come across online, including fake news, misinformation and disinformation. It is a critical skill to evaluate and critically analyze information we consume online.” Jerry added.

Untrained Content Creaters

According to Statista, more than eight million Ghanaians are active users of social media. Ghana’s digital space had 44 million sim cards in circulation by the beginning of the year 2023.

Even though many Ghanaians use multiple sim cards for different networks across varied devices, the figure suggests that a good number of Ghanaians are exposed to the existing threat of fake news, cyber bullying, cyber crime and other online predatory activities targeted at unsuspecting victims.

Dr Kodwo Jonas Anson Boateng, Head of the Department of Integrated Social Sciences of the UMAC Institute of Journalism, expressed concern, true journalists and informed technocrats had been overwhelmingly outnumbered by online content creators who are neither media trained nor properly educated.

Speaking at the launch, he explained, “Through our research we have realized that those who are literate enough do not really make use of social media tools. I am an avid tiktok fan and I can tell you that most tiktok content creators are semi literate.”

“Most of them are citizen journalists and those who are not well educated; who do not do critical analysis of what they post. Unfortunately their posts seem to have larger impact on our society than we the trained journalists.

Laying a charge on journalists and trained media personnel, he advised, “They are posing a threat to us. it is high time we the journalists learn to use these tools apart from the traditional media which may be somehow fading out gradually.”

State actors including the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) joined a panel discussion which teased out roles each stakeholder needed to play in raising awareness about and sanitizing the digital space against the harms of misinformation, disinformation and other veritable online landmines.

Media Partners

Mr. Daniel Aggrey, Business Manager for Abusua 96.5 FM and Ultimate 106.9 FM, both stations of the EIB Kumasi Cluster welcomed the campaign pledging his resolve to continue the fight on all media platforms under his watch.

“We are extremely excited to have been part of this campaign because it drives to the core of the information age which we find ourselves a major stakeholder.”

“We have a fully functional EIB Digital Department which is working tirelessly churning out facts and figures and challenging fake news out there. Our newsrooms are working with fact checking teams and using all the digital tools available to us to wage this fierce war. Letting down our guard for a second will be too costly to our generation” Mr Aggrey noted.

This year’s Global Media and Information Literacy Week which came off under the theme “Media and Information Literacy in Digital Spaces: A Collective Global Agenda,” further publicized a new research report on interventions in the MIL space.

By: inewslens.com/Ivan Heathcote – Fumador.

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