Be prepared and stay informed courtesy by Department of Homeland Security.
Digital media literacy (also known as online critical thinking skills) is vital to the safety, security, health, and
well-being of individuals and communities. The proliferation of social media and applications has increased
the volume of information we are exposed to everyday. With the public health measures imposed as a result
of COVID-19, individuals are spending more time online – increasing the risk of being exposed to false or
misleading information. Becoming digital media literate can help individuals build resiliency and reduce the
risk of radicalizing to violence.
Digital media literacy addresses three types of online content:
- Misinformation is false, but not created or shared with the intention of causing harm.
- Malinformation is based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.
- Disinformation is deliberately created to mislead, harm, or manipulate a person, social group, organization, or country.
Creating or spreading this type of online content can undermine public confidence in our system of government and its institutions. However, communities and individuals can equip themselves with effective tools, knowledge, and resources that do not impede the free flow of reliable information – a cornerstone of a healthy and functioning society. Every individual plays an important role in recognizing and building resilience to false and harmful narratives.
Key Steps for Digital Media Literacy
Modern technology continues to make the spread of propaganda and the manipulation of information easier.
Social media and traditional news media sources can be both victims and perpetrators of spreading
misinformation and disinformation. There are, however, basic steps that every individual can take to identify
and mitigate these harmful narratives.
- Consider the source – Is this a well-known or trusted news outlet, and are they reputable for the subject at hand?
- Triple check the source – Sites designed to spread false information often try to mimic legitimate news sources. Check the name, logo, and “About” section to verify.
- Identify the author – Misleading and false articles often do not include authors. If authors are listed, do a quick search to see if they are trusted sources.
- Inspect the URL – Webpages that notoriously spread disinformation often have odd web domain names that try to imitate real sources (e.g. nbcnews.com.co)
- Examine spelling and punctuation – Webpages with misspelled words, unnecessary ALL CAPS, poor grammar, and excessive punctuation are often unreliable.
- Seek alternative viewpoints – Search for other articles and sources on the same topic. If there are limited or no results, or you find contradicting information, you may want to do further research and fact-checking.
- Think before you share – Damaging disinformation spreads quickly via shared posts. Emotional and sensitive topics are often used to manipulate readers into sharing without thinking. Review the above steps and be wary of content that seeks to sow discord and provoke audiences.