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NTU undergraduates create campaign to combat ‘fake news’ spreading among older S’poreans

SINGAPORE — In light of false reports circulating on social media, such as recent posts on the Wuhan coronavirus, a group of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) undergraduates hope to educate older Singaporeans on how to fact check the news they come across.

NTU undergraduates create campaign to combat ‘fake news’ spreading among older S’poreans

NTU undergraduates (from left) Ms Vernette Didier Chia Chye Yen, 23, Ms Lee Yun Ting, 25, Ms Kelley Lim Ruili, 23, and Ms Rachel Anne Chew Ming Hui, 23, who are behind the Sure Anot campaign.

SINGAPORE — In light of false reports circulating on social media, such as recent posts on the Wuhan coronavirus, a group of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) undergraduates hope to educate older Singaporeans on how to fact check the news they come across.

Recently, messages on platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook have claimed that some Singaporeans had contracted the virus and that the Woodlands MRT station was closed down due to a suspected case.

These messages have been clarified to be untrue by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Transport respectively.

To tackle the spread of false information on WhatsApp, the group of four communications studies students created a campaign for their final year project called “Sure Anot”, targeted at Singaporeans aged between 50 and 64.

“A lot of fake news is being cast around on closed groups like WhatsApp,” said Ms Rachel Anne Chew Ming Hui, 23, a member of the team. “Our campaign hopes to encourage people of our parents’ age to be more wary about the messages that they receive there.”

WhatsApp is the most used social messaging platform among Singaporeans, according to digital marketing company Media One Marketing. But WhatsApp messages are encrypted and thus regulators cannot access and verify false messages.

The team chose to focus education efforts on older adults as they found in a pre-campaign survey that most of them have received false information but do not know how to verify it.

Of the 178 Singaporeans aged 50 to 64 who were surveyed, almost all of them had received a false message on WhatsApp but about half of them do not know how to fact check such information.

As part of the campaign, the team created a three-step approach called “Be Safe, Be Sure” that older adults are recommended to follow when they view messages on WhatsApp.

“We realised that older adults may feel overwhelmed when asked to perform advanced fact-checking steps such as reverse image search,” said Ms Lee Yun Ting, 25, team leader of Sure Anot. “It is important to equip them with steps that are simpler to perform to fight the fake news spread.”

Reverse image search is a process where an image is searched online to determine if there are duplicates of it from a different source.

An infographic that is part of the Sure Anot campaign against false information on WhatsApp. Infographic: Sure Anot

The first two steps of the recommended process are:

  • Do not forward the message immediately without questioning the material, as many people do

  • The recipient should then ask: “Sure anot?”, that is, can they be sure the information in the newly-received message is correct. For example, they could question the person who sent the message about where it came from

These steps were developed based on the group’s pre-campaign survey results and after consulting their professors.

They found that a third of respondents immediately shared a news message that a friend or family member had forwarded to them, but only a tenth of them would ask the sender for more information to check if it is true.

The third and final step recommended by the students involves verifying the message.

The students said users are advised to follow the S.U.R.E framework developed by the National Library Board in 2013. The framework reminds readers to look at the source of the news, understand what they are reading, research on it and evaluate it for themselves.

The team has also asked some of their parents and relatives to try out the approach and have received encouraging responses.

“They were generally supportive of our approach as it is easy for them to adopt,” said another member of the team, Ms Vernette Didier Chia Chye Yen, 23, adding that their parents have been practising it more.

Apart from developing these steps, the group also created WhatsApp and Facebook groups where they share false reports that have been debunked. Most of their clarifications are shared from their collaborator Black Dot Research, an independent fact-checking platform in Singapore.

“Countering fake news should be a collective effort that involves the whole of society. Given the current information environment, it is now more crucial than ever that Singaporeans take on a social responsibility to guard themselves and their loved ones from fake news,” said Mr Nicholas Fang, founder and managing director of Black Dot Research.

The team will have a roadshow from Feb 13 to 16 at Jurong Point Shopping Centre to raise awareness about the “fake news” problem and educate the public on their three-step approach.

They also hope to share the approach with older adults at the non-profit organisation RSVP Singapore The Organisation of Senior Volunteers.

 

 

Related topics

fake news WhatsApp Wuhan Wuhan virus coronavirus

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