In Helsinki, Finland, an anti-fake news initiative was launched by the government in 2014 to educate its people on the methods of identifying fake news. The initiative’s aim is to teach residents, students, journalists, and politicians how to counter mistruths which are intentionally manufactured to create disharmony.
The initiative is just one of the many layers of the multi-pronged, cross-sector approach the country is taking to prepare its people for the digital landscape of today and of the future. Experts were brought in on how to handle fake news, and the school curriculum was reformed to focus more on critical thinking. They believe that the first line of defence is down to kindergarten teachers, to help train students in classrooms to sort out facts from fiction on the Internet.
Finland has been measured to be the most digital literate society in Europe, and is ranked first out of 35 countries. What helped the Finnish in its success of defending its society against misinformation aimed at sowing discord are a strong sense of national narrative, having roots in a unique identity, and being small and largely homogenous.
Another sign of their success is how other countries, from EU and even Singapore, have sent representatives to learn Finland’s approach to this vexing problem.
Read the full article on CNN: Finland is winning the war on fake news. What it’s learned may be crucial to Western democracy
Education seems to be the most effective approach of the Finnish in immunising itself from the effects of fake news. However, it can be difficult to fully export this same approach to other countries. Literacy rates differ in each country, as seen and explained in this index. Finland boasts 100% literacy rate in this index, whereas Singapore has 96%. This could mean that education may not be the panacea to defending against falsehoods, and local contexts should be considered.
Each country will also have its own methods of defending against intrusive online falsehoods. In Singapore, the government has enacted the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) as one approach to controlling the impact of fake news. Other countries such as France and Germany also have their own sets of protective laws.
It is also a likely inference to view the Finnish government as taking a prepared stance, while the other governments seem to be more reactionary to challenges once they have taken effect. There is much to learn from the early prevention approach of the Finnish in this regard.
Questions for further personal evaluation:
- What are the potential pitfalls of importing a foreign approach of handling societal challenges?
- Why do you think Finland is able to be prepared against the negative impact of online falsehoods early on?
- ‘dubious’: hesitating or doubting
- ‘emanating’: spreading out from
- ‘fissures’: a state of incompatibility or disagreement; a crack with long, narrow opening