Facebook is teaming up with an Ottawa-based non-profit organization to teach the federal government how to combat hacking and fake stories ahead of the next election.
Karina Gould, minister of democratic institutions, marked the two-year anniversary of the last election by announcing the partnership.
The cooperation between politicians and tech giants comes in an era where misinformation and cyber threats are plaguing elections.
In the last year, the American election was disrupted by the release of hacked emails from former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and French President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign was also hacked.
Facebook has released a “cyber hygiene guide” for political parties, candidates and their staff to train them how to deal with the online world. It’s also setting up a hotline for people to report security breaches.
Democracy at stake
Ottawa’s MediaSmarts is turning to the younger generation, teaching children about digital literacy in the world of news.
Most children are smart when it comes to sifting out bad information, said Matthew Johnson, director of education for MediaSmarts. However, they needed guidance when that information was posted on social media.
“We found that almost all of them authenticated information they were seeking for school,” he said. “When they found information for their own purposes … they were much much less likely to take steps to double-check.”
By teaching young children how to spot fake news, getting them familiar with the online world and teaching them about how information works, Johnson said they can help combat issues of misinformation.
“It’s up to each of us that when we spread information we have reason to believe it’s accurate.”
But now anyone can post online without requiring an editorial eye.
“As useful a tool as [the term fake news] has been to get the word out there … it really does simplify a complex issue. There’s a much lower barrier to publication. Now anyone can create a fake website … and start sending out news stories.”
Though the decades-long battle won’t be won in a day, educating children is a good place to start, he said.
“It’s important for the health of our country, our democracy that we are receiving and sharing accurate information,” Johnson said.