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Hall: Americans Need Media Literacy

The rise of misinformation and AI-generated content on social media has made media literacy education absolutely imperative.
Cecilia Acosta
(Design by Cecilia Acosta | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


Combatting misinformation has become a critical challenge on social media platforms like TikTok. Content can spread rapidly and influence a wide audience. The rampant spread of false information and propaganda has highlighted the urgent need for better media literacy among Americans. The rise of AI-generated content further complicates this issue, making it more challenging for individuals to discern fact from fiction. We must educate the public on critically assessing and verifying online information. 

Misinformation Minefield

Social media platforms like TikTok have revolutionized how we consume information, creating an unprecedented content stream that is both rapid and relentless. These platforms have become breeding grounds for misinformation. False narratives and propaganda quickly gain traction and spread like wildfire. The algorithms designed to maximize engagement inadvertently amplify the reach of misleading information, often prioritizing sensationalism and clicks over accuracy. The unchecked information consuming TikTok highlights the critical need for media literacy education.

Many individuals, particularly young users, are ill-equipped to navigate this flood of information. They struggle to identify false information and may unknowingly contribute to its spread. When misinformation spreads, it can distort public opinion and undermine trust in legitimate news sources. A 2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study highlighted that fake news stories on X are 70% more likely to be reposted than accurate news stories. This statistic shows how misinformation preys on our biases and exploits our inclination towards sensationally and emotionally charged content.

Educating Tomorrow’s Voters

Media literacy is crucial in navigating the internet. Without it, believing and unknowingly spreading misinformation becomes easier than not. It involves developing critical thinking skills, understanding how individuals and companies produce and share information and discerning credible sources from unreliable ones. Media literacy equips us with the tools to analyze the motives behind information dispersal, enabling us to question biases that influence the content we encounter.

Educators and policymakers must provide youths with media literacy initiatives, especially as they come of age and become eligible to vote. Platforms with a high percentage of young users, like TikTok, influence public discourse, especially during election seasons. Educating young voters on critically assessing online information is crucial in preventing the spread of misinformation. While creating a generation of digitally savvy citizens, these initiatives will also demand accountability and transparency in media and political messaging.

California’s recent initiative to require media literacy instruction at every grade level is the first step in the right direction. This trend started in New Jersey, followed by Delaware and Texas. By integrating media literacy into education curricula, students can learn how to discern misinformation from fact by verifying online information.

Fueling the Fire of False Narratives

Election seasons are particularly vulnerable to misinformation, as political narratives and agendas often dominate social media platforms. With its immense popularity among younger demographics, TikTok is a nest for misleading political content. The rising popularity of AI-generated content complicates this problem, making false information appear highly convincing and realistic. To address this, we must educate users and demand transparency from TikTok in how they mitigate the spread of misinformation during critical political climates.

During election seasons, propaganda skews public perception and undermines the democratic process by manipulating voters. Propaganda’s danger lies in its ability to subtly shape opinions and beliefs, manipulating the audience without their awareness. This is particularly concerning during election seasons, where the stakes are high, and spreading false information can lead to misinformed voting decisions. Propaganda creates echo chambers that explicitly expose individuals to information reinforcing their beliefs. This further polarizes the electorate and erodes trust in democratic institutions.

Media literacy initiatives must emphasize the importance of questioning sources and seeking multiple perspectives. This includes teaching young voters how to identify common propaganda techniques, such as false dilemma, emotional appeals and ad hominem attacks. These tactics enable individuals to discern when others are manipulating them.

The Need for Collaborative Efforts

Addressing misinformation in the media requires a collaborative effort from everyone. This includes government agencies, educational institutions and tech companies. These efforts should prioritize integrating media literacy education into school curricula and providing resources for continuous learning among adults.

Furthermore, labeling AI-generated content and misinformation is a necessity. Policies should hold social media platforms accountable for harboring misinformation and promote transparency in content moderation. Public awareness campaigns must emphasize critical thinking and responsible online behavior. Fact-checking organizations and tools will enable users to verify information before sharing it.

By equipping individuals with the skills to navigate the internet responsibly, we can reduce the impact of misinformation and safeguard democratic processes.


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About the Contributors
Lexi Hall
Lexi Hall, Opinion Writer
(she/her) Lexi is double majoring in English and Communications with an emphasis in Journalism at the University of Utah. She is from Las Vegas, Nevada, and came to Salt Lake City because she loves the outdoors. Lexi spends most of her time reading books and going to concerts with friends. She hopes one day to become an English Professor and a Journalist.
Cecilia Acosta
Cecilia Acosta, Designer
Cecilia is excited to be at the University of Utah studying Graphic Design and Animation. She's grateful to be a part of a team of such creative individuals here at the Chronicle. Although originally from Mesa, Arizona, she has been loving the gorgeous scenery, snowy winters, and fun activities that Utah has to offer. Besides art and design, she also enjoys hiking, boba tea, dancing, and journaling.

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