Person-by-Person, Internews’ FactShala Program Combats Misinformation
Online misinformation is hard to stop. It’s easy to pass along a rumor, even easier to believe one. But understanding when an online piece of information is false, or meant to cause harm, requires critical thinking skills and awareness. This problem of identifying misinformation can be even more complex for new internet users, who have never had a chance to understand how to navigate the maze of online information. Luckily, research has shown that these skills can be learned.
In India – where millions of users come online each year from smaller cities and rural areas – a group of 253 journalists, fact-checkers, media educators, non-profit workers, and community radio representatives have come together to ensure people have the opportunity to learn how to assess the online information they access in their daily lives.
These trainers – coming from different states and speaking many different languages – form the core training team of FactShala, a news and information literacy program launched in 2020 by Internews with the support of Google.org and the Google News Initiative and in collaboration with Dataleads.
Last year, in the midst of the pandemic, the trainers organized over 370 trainings and reached more than 18,000 people from non-metro cities and remote areas in rural India. Trainees included women’s self-help groups, aanganwadi (childcare) workers, community reporters, medical workers, farmers, refugees, LGBT community members, pensioners, housewives, environmental activists, tea garden workers, religious leaders, rural school and college teachers and college students. They were taught how to identify and resist misinformation via training sessions held both online and in-person.
The sessions were held in over 10 languages or dialects and often in the comfort of the participants’ homes, schools, offices and shops. Additionally, the 60 community radio stations that teamed up with FactShala created and broadcast a series of episodes on news and information literacy for their respective audience, and organized in-person group discussions in villages.
FactShala, envisioned as a classroom for facts, has its origins in the word pathshala – meaning place of learning in Hindi. The curriculum is based on insights drawn from a user study done with the guidance of the Stanford History Education Group and incorporates inputs from expert partners including Amity University, BBC, BoomLive, Don Bosco University, Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media and Hong Kong University.
Find more about FactShala on internews.org