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Students learn to spot fake news with Google-funded school project

Building relationships between journalism and this next generation is really critical, says Google

Grade 8 class

Google Canada, the Canadian Journalism Foundation and CIVIX, the organizers of the Student Votes program aim to roll out an educational campaign about fake news. (Eric Anderson/CBC)

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Google Canada is investing $500,000 toward teaching Canadian elementary and high school students how to be news literate.

The program, called News Wise, wants to highlight the importance of journalism in a democracy, as well as give students the tools and the know-how to find and filter information online. It is aimed at five million school-aged Canadians between the ages of nine to 19.

"There is a proliferation of information online, [so] making sure that this next generation is equipped with these kinds of tools is really important," Aaron Brindle, head of public affairs for Google Canada, told CBC.

Brindle also said Google's position as an information juggernaut makes them the perfect partner for this kind of initiative.

"Google's mission is to organize the world's information," he said. "We're letting them down if we can't help them find information that's relevant and helpful and factual."

The program is a partnership with the Canadian Journalism Foundation and Civics Canada (CIVIX), the group behind the popular Student Votes school program.

Taylor Gunn, president of CIVIX said this program would work similar to their student vote initiative.

"What we're going to do is insert or infuse into [it], a much more purposeful focus on news literacy," he told Ottawa Morning's Hallie Cotnam.

Organizers will lay out examples of real journalism and fake news, and give the students new tools to help them the capacity to to distinguish between the two.

Fake news

David Walmsley, chair of the CJF and editor of the Globe and Mail newspaper said in a release, "if we're going to foster trust in journalism, we need to reach the next generation of news consumers and ensure they understand the role journalism plays in our society.

"This initiative provides an arena to engage a younger audience and to ensure they're equipped with the skills to identify reliable sources of information."

In terms of determining what actually constitutes "fake news," Brindle says one of the main focuses will be distinguishing between content that is intentionally designed to deceive, and content that is opinion-based.

He said the company has been working hard to deal with the issue of fake news issue on its own platform, but is now looking to put some of those tools in the hands of the user.

"We do see our mission and the mission of news organizations as inextricably linked when it comes to presenting factual information to our users," he said.

The partnership aims to roll out the program by next year's Ontario provincial election, which comes just before the end of the province's academic school year.

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