Oct 24, 2013

    Govt help to sift fact from fiction

    A MOVE by the Government to help people distinguish fact from fiction and be more discerning in consuming information has been lauded by media experts here.

    But they added that in tackling the spread of misinformation, which can create speculation and even panic, makers of the news should be more transparent and timely in releasing relevant information.

    Yesterday, the National Library Board (NLB) launched the Sure (Source, Understand, Research, Evaluate) initiative, aimed at promoting information literacy - the ability to effectively locate, evaluate and use information - among the public.

    NLB said Singapore is the only country besides the United States to run such a programme at the national level.

    Sure is the new name of the five-year National Information Literacy Programme, which is in its second year. In its first year, it was aimed at students.

    Mr Wan Wee Pin, NLB's deputy director for national library engagement, said: "Some people, out of habit, tend to take things at face value. A lot of us also don't have time to research or verify the information that we get. And with (the many) channels that people can get information from, it gets very difficult to tell what the truth is."

    Media experts My Paper spoke to gave the initiative the thumbs up, as the critical-thinking skills that people learn will allow them to assess what they see or hear critically.

    Professor Tan Cheng Han, chairman of the Media Literacy Council, pointed out that information literacy is "a life skill for the digital age".

    "Online information can come from lobby groups with an agenda, groups with extremist views, businesses paying for good reviews, pranksters out to create mischief, or (even) conmen trawling for victims on social media," he said.

    Assistant Professor Denisa Kera, at the National University of Singapore's Department of Communications and New Media, said that the initiative will "empower people to become more responsible content creators and sharers".

    But she added that the most efficient way to disseminate accurate information during crises is "to enable citizens to have a more active role in the monitoring and management of the whole situation".

    For instance, during a haze situation in Singapore, people should be able to monitor the pollution levels using tools such as cheap sensors or smartphones, said Dr Kera.

    Social-media consultant Belinda Ang said that "news sources should be more transparent and share information in a more timely manner".

    "You can't stop coffee-shop talk and rumours, but there would be less speculation if the public has better access to the full picture," said the founder of thinkBIG Communications.