Media literacy encompasses a broadened understanding of information online, incorporating the essential skills of accessing, analysing, and engaging with media messages. It empowers individuals to not only consume media, but also actively contribute to create positive change.

By cultivating media literacy, digital activists can harness the power of media to shape a more informed and influential society. This multidimensional approach to media literacy encompasses a proactive stance that fosters empowerment. However, media literacy is under great threat with the recent advancements in artificial intelligence technology.

Curriculum program manager of Common Sense Media, Daniel Vargas Campos, notes: “There’s too much information out there, and that makes it difficult to sort what’s real versus what’s fake. That is what’s happening right now with artificial intelligence.”

As humanity navigates a digital world increasingly shaped by AI and disinformation, it is critical to understand how to improve media literacy skills. It is possible to empower citizens to critically assess and critique media messages by providing communities with the required tools, knowledge, and strategies.

Strategies to improve media literacy

Many internet users lack media literacy. One aspect contributing to this is the lack of emphasis on media literacy education in schools, making it difficult for individuals to navigate complex media landscapes. People are finding it difficult to distinguish between authentic material and computer-generated writing due to the rapid growth of AI.

Social media is notorious for spreading fake news and disinformation. Unfortunately, approximately 55% of people get their news from social media. That’s why media literacy is extremely important now more than ever, especially for digital activists working to bring about positive change.

Improving media literacy abilities allows people to not only traverse the huge sea of information with discernment but also to reject deceptive narratives and advocate for truth. Apply the following measures to improve media literacy:

· Find the purpose: When surveying digital information, whether it be video, audio, or text, consider the purpose behind the message. Once you understand the goal of the content creator, it’s possible to decipher whether the information presented has been slanted to fit a specific narrative. This is also effective for discovering disinformation. Always make sure to check footnotes, sources, and quotes for credibility.

· Explore multiple options: When reading up on a specific topic, it’s important to not rely on a single media source. Diversify your sources in order to achieve unbiased information without subjective input. This way, it’s simpler to understand the objective truth on a subject.

· Collect trustworthy sources: Make the effort to create a long list of trustworthy sources on your selected topics or industries. This makes it easier to ensure credibility for your research. A well-known trustworthy news site is The Washington Post.

· Check the language and tone: Spend some time on credible news sites, and then compare the language and tone to misleading articles. Trustworthy sources don’t have a selling point of view, but present well-researched information, facts, sources, and expert quotes.

· Keep an eye on statistics: Even though credible sites usually offer statistics; some disinformation articles do the same. However, it’s simple to tell the difference. Disinformation usually possesses statistics that are quite alarming, but when closely examined, are either false or are misrepresented. This is done through studies that are incredibly limited and don’t represent enough data for an accurate statistic.

Once these different methods of improving media literacy are known, digital activists can make more of an impact. If one seeks to expand media literacy education, check out Hive Minds’ Media Literacy Tools. Media illiteracy can have a dire impact on communities and lead to mass panic.

The consequences of a lack of media literacy in South Africa

During the Covid-19 pandemic, tension levels were at an all-time high throughout South Africa as the disease spread around the country. However, the media played a major role in unnecessarily increasing fear. An article from The Conversation showcases the various effects of community media illiteracy throughout South Africa. The piece reported that nearly half of the front-page news stories at the time used an alarmist narrative and provided limited information, creating mass panic and irrational individual actions.

Sensationalist reporting has the capacity to spread disinformation, fearmongering, and panic among the general population. It has the potential to destroy public faith in accurate reporting and public health measures, and it hampered attempts to effectively manage the pandemic.

Media literacy is critical for combating sensationalism and promoting fair reporting. Individuals with media literacy are able to critically assess news items, detect sensationalist features, and differentiate between truth and opinion. As media literacy isn't often taught in schools, many South Africans acted in fear after reading these negative articles.

An example of disinformation spreading around South Africa about Covid-19 is shown in a News 24 article attempting to dismiss false claims about an alleged new variant. The fake message was shared on Facebook thousands of times, causing mass fear and leading to many individuals donning a mask again and panic-buying necessities like toilet paper. Due to the lack of necessary media literacy skills, the disinformation was repeatedly shared.

This misleading information was combatted by the Department of Health releasing a nationwide statement, dismissing the claims and urging South Africans to be wary of fake news.

The effect of artificial intelligence in spreading false information and misleading content

AI in media poses challenges for media literacy. AI-generated content can deceive, while algorithms create filter bubbles. Enhanced media literacy is crucial to navigate these complexities responsibly.

The above paragraph was generated by ChatGPT, and it’s almost impossible to tell the difference! This creates a frightening environment for internet users and digital activists trying to navigate the internet for genuine, human-written content and truthful reports. In fact, more than 50% of people cannot tell the difference between AI-generated copy and human-written text.

The introduction of the AI model ChatGPT to the public is still relatively new, and already there are potential lawsuits in progress against OpenAI for providing false information. One of these is a high-profile case reported by Reuters, indicating an Australian mayor’s dissatisfaction with the misleading information presented by ChatGPT.

Brian Hood has shared that ChatGPT has falsely claimed that he served time in prison for bribery, and has threatened to file a defamation lawsuit if this information is not corrected.

As a result of this misleading information, Hood’s reputation has been severely affected and his good public standing has dropped. For a politician, this is of course extremely disruptive.

Hood sent a letter of concern to OpenAI about the claim in order to combat the consequences of media literacy, as many people in the community believed the claims generated by ChatGPT. This marks a new age of technology, as lawsuits against AI-generated content will inevitably begin to rise.

ChatGPT failed to include footnotes for these claims; that’s why media literacy is so important. If more users had detected the lack of sources in the content, the disinformation would not have been so widely-spread and affected the public opinion of a political figure.

How to use media literacy to spot AI-generated content

AI-generated content is booming all over the web, and undermining creative artists and professional writers. It can be difficult to spot AI-generated text, however, these methods can aid in the process of analysing text that might have AI elements:

· Check sources: When reading anything online, check for footnotes and assess the credibility of any listed sources.

· AI-detection tools: There are multiple AI-detection tools surfacing online, like ZeroGPT. However, these tools can often flag false results, so use them cautiously.

· Outdated information: AI content generally includes outdated information. Check how recent the data in a particular article is to assess the assistance of AI in the copy.

Become a digital activist and learn how to decode the digital realm in the modern world. Be a part of the media literacy solution by joining the Hive Mind community.

Disclaimer: Please note that these techniques are purely a guideline and are not 100% effective for spotting AI-generated content.