British Columbia

Fake news and Facebook: Campaign kicks off to help Canadians separate fact from fiction

False news and misinformation can spread like wildfire on social media and, in an attempt to combat it, Facebook Canada is launching a multi-year initiative designed, it says, to help users decipher the real from the fake.

1st of 5 PSA videos about authenticating information released on Thursday

The digital news literacy partnership with MediaSmarts is part of a campaign about fake news ahead of the 2019 Canadian federal election. (Reuters)

False news and misinformation can spread like wildfire on social media and, in an attempt to combat fake news, Facebook Canada has launched a multi-year initiative designed, it says, to help users decipher the real from the fake.

The first part of the two-year digital news literacy partnership with the not-for-profit organization MediaSmarts kicked off in Vancouver Thursday morning with the release of a new PSA video and panel discussion.

"There is a definite recognition that everyone has a role to play in making sure people have access to good information and are able to distinguish between good information and bad," said Matthew Johnson, the director of education for MediaSmarts.

Getting the message out

Thursday's video is the first of five PSAs with tips on authenticating information and focused on judging the veracity of news. The launch was live streamed on Facebook and the video is being shared across the social media platform.

"Having Facebook as a platform to disseminate these PSAs is really a huge help for us in getting the message out both on how to authenticate information online and just how important it is to be in the habit of doing that," Johnson said.

The videos are part of a larger campaign to draw attention to hacking and fake stories ahead of the upcoming 2019 Canadian federal election.

"It's astonishing how much is shared on Facebook and other social media," said Johnson. "It's not just about teaching people to authenticate. It's also teaching people to be responsible sharers."

The next video is expected to be released early next year.

"Part of it is just having, to a certain extent, a sceptical habit of mind to not automatically assuming that what comes to you is true," Johnson said.

With files from The Early Edition.

now