Tag Archives: Australians

Most young Australians can’t identify fake news online

The Conversation

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Media education opportunities should be more frequently available in schools to ensure young Australians meaningfully engage with news media. Shutterstock

Tanya Notley, Western Sydney University and Michael Dezuanni, Queensland University of Technology

In September 2017, we conducted Australia’s first nationally representative survey focused on young Australians’ news engagement practices.

Our survey of 1,000 young Australians aged eight to 16 indicated that while roughly one third felt they could distinguish fake news from real news, one third felt they could not make this distinction. The other third were uncertain about their ability.

In part, we were motivated by the gravity of recent academic and public claims about the impact of the spread of “fake news” via social media – although we are well aware of arguments about the credibility and accuracy of the term “fake news”. In our study, we classified fake news as news that is deliberately misleading.

What we found

Age plays a role here. As children get older, they feel more confident about telling fake news from real news. 42% of Australian teens aged 13-16 reported being able to tell fake news from real news, compared with 27% of children aged 8-12.


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We found young Australians are not inclined to verify the accuracy of news they encounter online. Only 10% said they often tried to work out whether a story presented on the internet is true. A significant number indicated they sometimes tried to verify the truthfulness of news (36%). More than half indicated they either hardly ever tried (30%) or never tried to do this (24%).


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We also asked young Australians how much attention they pay to thinking about the origin of news stories, particularly those they access online. More than half indicated they paid at least some attention or a lot of attention to the source of news stories (54%). However, 32% said they paid very little attention and 14% said they paid no attention at all.

To us, the circulation of fake news on social media is troubling, given what we know about how social media platforms create news filter bubbles that reinforce existing worldviews and interests.

Even more concerning, though, is the way many social media platforms allow people with vested interests to push content into feeds after paying to target people based on their age, location or gender, as well as their status changes, search histories and the content they have liked or shared.

There is often no transparency about why people are seeing particular content on their social media feeds or who is financing this content. Furthermore, much online content is made by algorithms and “bots” (automated accounts, rather than real people) that respond to trends in posts and searches in order to deliver more personalised and targeted content and advertising.

Where are young Australians getting their news?

Given these concerns, we used our survey to ask just how much news young Australians get through social media.

With all the hype around young people’s mobile and internet use, it might come as a surprise that social media did not emerge as their top news source and nor is it their most preferred.

80% of young Australians said they had consumed news from at least one source in the day before the survey was conducted. Their most frequent source was family members (42%), followed by television (39%), teachers (23%), friends (22%), social media (22%), and radio (17%). Print newspapers trailed a distant last (7%).

However, this is not to diminish the significance of young people’s use of social media to consume news. Two-thirds of teens said they often or sometimes accessed news on social media (66%) and more than one third of children stated they did so (33%).

For teens, Facebook was by far the most popular social media site for getting news with over half (51%) using it for this purpose. For children, YouTube was by far the social media platform used most for news. 37% got news from this site.


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What should we be doing?

There is no doubt that legal and regulatory changes are needed to address the issue of fake news online.

However, education must also play a critical role. Media education opportunities should be more frequently available in schools to ensure young Australians meaningfully engage with news media.

Media Arts in the Australian Curriculum is one of the world’s only official systematic media literacy policies for children in preschool to year 10, but it is being under-used. Our survey suggests only one in five young Australians received lessons in the past year to help them critically analyse news, and only one third had made their own news stories at school.

The curriculum also needs to ensure young people understand the politics, biases and commercial imperatives embedded in technologies, platforms and digital media.

The ConversationOur survey shows that young people are consuming lots of news online. However, many are not critiquing this news or they don’t know how to. The implications of this are not necessarily self-evident or immediate, but they may be very wide reaching by influencing young people’s capacity to participate in society as well-informed citizens.

Tanya Notley, Senior Lecturer in Digital Media, Western Sydney University and Michael Dezuanni, Associate professor, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Sharks aren’t criminals, but our fear makes us talk as if they are

The Conversation

By Adrian Peace, The University of Queensland

Sharks have been making news yet again, after a spate of sightings in Newcastle, New South Wales, prompted days of beach closures and reports of oceangoers allegedly being “stalked” by “monster” specimens.

Similarly, when West Australian teenager Jay Muscat was killed by a shark on December 29 last year at Cheyne’s Beach, near Albany, the state’s media understandably covered the incident in detail, with an ABC television report claiming that a shark had been seen “stalking” the area for about week before the tragedy.

This term also appeared in subsequent media reports about a local family who, three days before the incident, had reportedly been “stalked” by a shark at the same beach. One family member expressed her guilt at not having informed the Department of Fisheries about the shark, which she described as “menacing”.

“Stalking” and “menacing” are graphic, emotive words, typically reserved for criminal behaviour on a serious scale. Petty thieves don’t stalk; rapists and assassins do. Armed robbers are menacing; shoplifters not so much.

What is also important about this language is that it connotes behaviour which is deliberate, conscious, and calculating. In the wake of human encounters with sharks (and particularly great white sharks), we are used to hearing that a shark has “stalked” an area to “target” a victim. Most people don’t consider this terminology inappropriate, despite the fact that the animal is being crudely demonized.

This characterisation is quite arbitrary, as shown by the fact that a minority of observers choose instead to emphasize the “incidental” and “accidental” nature of the same attacks. But this latter interpretation tends to be buried under the flow of negative and emotive words.

The language of crime

Plenty of other metaphors of criminality are also used to characterize sharks in Australian waters. Great whites are routinely said to “lurk”, “linger”, “prowl”, “maraud” or “loiter” near “innocent” or “unsuspecting” bathers.

Sharks “encroach on”, “intrude into”, and “invade” the water near beaches, marinas and surf breaks. When an attack takes place across these presumed boundaries, whole populations of people are “terrorized” into leaving the water, enduring a summer of fear at the mercy of “rogue” sharks.

Not a good day for a dip.
AAP Image/NewZulu/Lucy Alcorn

After a tragedy, the shark is still ascribed with qualities of deliberation and calculation. It is said to have slipped away and avoided capture, even “gone under the radar”. The “elusive” or “evasive” killer shark retreats into the vast, unfathomable ocean like a professional assassin disappearing into the anonymity of the city. The shark takes flight, successfully “giving authorities the slip”. “It’ll be miles away by now” is a frequent complaint.

Descriptions of this kind suggest that, like a fugitive from justice, the animal knows it is at large and is weighing up its options: flee the scene, or return to the place of its initial attack and launch another one.

Why do we treat sharks like criminals?

Among developed world populations, Australians are arguably unique in living alongside a considerable number of indigenous wild animals with the capacity to kill them. (Europeans and North Americans rarely come face to face with bears or wolves these days). Whether it’s the redback spider in the chook shed, the brown snake under the veranda, the pure-bred dingo on Fraser Island, or the vast population of crocodiles across the Top End, Australians know how deadly the local wildlife can be.

But none of these – not even crocodiles – is linguistically maligned with quite the same degree of opprobrium, even hatred, as the great white shark. Why?

There are several reasons, but the most important is that while it is easy to ascribe human characteristics to sharks (as we have seen above), many people find them difficult to love, or even to like.

When wild creatures bear even the vaguest resemblance to humans or domesticated animals, this can afford them a level of protection from untrammelled exploitation. The danger which they might pose is somehow offset by some semblance of similarity in appearance or behaviour. The purely wild dingoes of Fraser Island were treated like domestic dogs until we realised they could be deadly.

It is difficult to think of sharks in this benevolent way. The black and beady eyes, the gaping jaw, the rows of serrated teeth, the seemingly malevolent expression, the immense body size – all seem to justify the final damning characterisation as the “ultimate killing machine”.

It is important for this narrative that the damage wrought on the victim’s body by a great white is immense. Although media reports respectfully attempt to gloss over exactly what happened at the moment of impact, we nevertheless have accounts of bodies being “bitten in half”, limbs eviscerated, and – perhaps most powerful of all – victims who are never found at all.

Fearsome Nature

In other words, what gives sharks their unrivalled symbolic character is the fact that they are a living testament to the destructive capacity of Nature.

The fact that great whites remain beyond our control runs entirely counter to the trajectory of recent history where human-animal relations are concerned.

The UC Berkeley geographer Michael Watts has described this relationship as “a gigantic act of enclosure”. The routine capturing, corralling, and containment of animals by humans has become a dominant pattern.

We kill animals and commodify their bodies and other products in endless ways – in battery chicken farms, piggeries, and even the crocodile farms of Australia’s tropical north.

Exceptionally, the great white shark has so far escaped the ignominies and impacts of enclosure enforced on other animals, including most wild ones.

Under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that through our ways of speaking we tend to condemn the great white for resolutely remaining well beyond the pale, just as we do with other extreme and uncontrollable elements on the margins of our society.

This is a culturally complex issue, beyond the scope of linguistic fixes like replacing the emotive terms such as “shark attack” with more prosaic ones like “shark bite”. But we should nevertheless start paying as much attention to how we talk about our encounters with sharks as we do to the encounters themselves.

The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged with permission). Read the original article.

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