Tue | Feb 25, 2020

Editors' Forum | Tertiary students peddling fake news for fun

Published:Monday | February 4, 2019 | 12:22 AMCarlene Davis/Gleaner Writer
Dr Yan Wu speaking at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum last week.

Several tertiary students are creating and sharing fake news via social media solely for the purpose of entertainment and humour, a survey has found.

Concerns over fake news, which refers to deliberate disinformation or hoaxes spread mainly via social media, has been rising in recent years.

The local survey, conducted by Dr Yan Wu and Gweneth Clarke from the Department of Library and Information at the University of the West Indies, Mona, found that 12.5 per cent of undergraduate students attending The Mico University College in Kingston have been creating or sharing fake news stories.

Speaking at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum at the newspaper’s Kingston head offices ahead of this week’s UWI Research Days 2019, Wu said the survey is timely, as the increased used of social media over the past five years has made it rather easy for persons to circulate fake information.

“Our intention is to get a basic knowledge in Jamaica about our university students – how they interact. What’s the situation? How frequently are they facing the fake news situation? Do they encounter great amount of fake news daily or not? So we want to know the fundamental knowledge,” said Wu.

Nearly 90 per cent of students say they have frequently encountered fake news via social media.

Eighty per cent of the participants admitted that they were aware through further probing that some news items were fake and prevented further sharing of the information. However, 22.5 per cent said they shared news stories that turned out to be untrue because they were very “informative”.

“Information is something that everyone consumes, not only in politics. As individuals in their daily lives, they have to depend on information to make decisions, so, therefore, fake news would be a major event that we need to look into and see what we can do in education, how we can train our citizens as well as university students to have a better skill to filter out what is true and untrue,” said Wu.

The findings of the survey will assist a national educational policy for teaching media and information literacy skills.