Fake news and propaganda are still hot issues for a lot of people. Why? Most likely because they’re products of the
public schooling government indoctrination system and are therefore unable to differentiate between facts and fiction when they’re being reported by a respected authority figure. When you can’t tell the difference between the two the fact that some of what you’re being told is factual while the other is fictional probably seems very scary.
But that’s OK because there are some solutions that will fix everything:
In a sense, social media audiences need basic “stranger danger” lessons. Every kid knows that the nice person offering candy and a ride might actually be trying to kidnap them. We need the same instincts in online public spaces, too. The friendly person tweeting at you from Georgia might actually be a bot under the control of Russian hackers. Don’t trust Internet people until you know them.
One of the most hopeful responses I’ve seen to these problems has come from an unlikely place: the Girl Scouts of America. The group has just created a cybersecurity badge that girls can earn alongside more traditional badges for skills like camping, first aid, and music (apparently the “whittling” badge I was so proud of as a kid is no longer offered).
It’s encouraging to see the Girl Scouts teaching cybersecurity to children, because this is the kind of basic skill that people will need more than ever in years to come.
Perhaps the next step will be encouraging teachers and librarians to teach kids defensive social-media skills. Lessons would start with the basics, like how to find the sources for an article and how to understand who has made edits on Wikipedia. More advanced students could be trained to recognize the kinds of bots that are used in propaganda campaigns. Eventually, students could learn to build tools that block known sources of malicious information, much the way Block Together works to prevent the spread of trolling and sockpuppet armies on Twitter.
While education about computer security is extremely beneficial, the flaw of the above proposals is that they rely too much on domain specific knowledge and dictation from authority.
The greatest defense against propaganda is an educated populace. A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that an educated populace is one where a large percentage hold college degrees of some sort. The fact that people often exclusively tie education and college together is a good example of how bad the government indoctrination system is in this country.
Whether a population is education or not has nothing to do with pieces of paper. The ultimate determining factor is whether or not the overwhelming majority of the populace is capable of independent thought. That is to say, an educated populace is one where critical thinking is in abundance and reliance on authority figures for knowledge is at a minimum. An uneducated individual is willing to accept any knowledge provided to them by an authority figure whereas an educated individual will be skeptical of any knowledge provided by an authority figure and attempt to verify it through personal investigation.
Propaganda becomes less effective when individuals default to a state of skepticism. Therefore the most effective tool for fighting against propaganda is teaching individuals how to think for themselves. Once they can do that they can seek out the knowledge they need to further guard themselves. Having authority figures dictate to individuals what is or isn’t propaganda and what they should or should not do to guard against it only exacerbates the problem because it keeps those individuals in a state of mind where they seek knowledge from authority, which is what propagandists rely on.
Unfortunately, the State relies on propaganda and therefore has a vested interest in teaching people to blindly accept knowledge from authority instead of seeking it out themselves. That being the case, the government indoctrination system will continue doing its damnedest to prevent students from thinking for themselves. Until parents stop sending their children to these indoctrination centers propaganda will continue being effective.