In an age where anyone on social media is a publisher, news and information literacy is more important than ever, according to a digital media expert.

Hannah Perry, research consultant for Google News Initiative and Asian Network of News and Information Educators, told Central News the public needs to refine its ability to identify news that is accurate and objective.

Perry, who presented her findings at the 2022 Trusted Media Summit last week, explores the challenges faced by news and information educators, and spoke about the issues, where differing contexts highlight that the audience must be taken into account.

Organisations and educators operating outside of formal education systems must decide on who they want their target audience to be and develop specific strategies to influence those people, she said.

From her research, she found few educators offering forms of news and information education use the same language. Media literacy, news reading, digital citizenship, fact-checking and information literacy all differ in meaning across contexts, with simple words such as ‘fake news’ referring to different problems across different countries.

Screenshot from Perry’s presentation at the 2022 Trusted Media Summit.


“It sounds really simple, but if you’re a global or regional organisation developing educational resources for educators, I think it’s often cheaper and easier just to do something in English that could speak to any English speaker than to do something that would speak to a specific audience in a specific political, cultural, media and linguistic context,” said Perry.

“I think that it’s really important for organisations to not use a single standardised example of news across multiple contexts, because it really reduces the impact of the learning.”

It’s like we’re using the ‘don’t have sex’ abstinence approach to social media.

As news is increasingly consumed through social media platforms, Perry said the importance of news literacy had increased, yet many countries in Asia and around the world have been too slow to adapt it into their school curriculums.

Reuters presented findings from an online poll conducted between January and early February at The Summit, and found higher preference rates in using social media for news in most Asian countries, with 59 per cent of people preferring access to news via social media in Thailand, 51 per cent in the Philippines and 46 per cent in Malaysia.

Screenshot from Reuters presentation at the 2022 Trusted Media Summit.


Perry believes that government education policies need to be updated to improve the news literacy of school children, with most schools in a range of Asian and Western countries not being equipped with the resources, funding or support from the curriculum to teach news literacy content.

“It’s like we’re using the ‘don’t have sex’ abstinence approach to social media, you can’t tell kids to simply abstain from or to not use social media, because they’re already on social media,” she said.

“What we need to do is teach kids how to use social media safely and to develop their information literacy, so that they are aware of the dangers social media can have as a source of news.

“It’s a difficult challenge to solve, but a very important one.”

In Australia, the latest statistics by Western Sydney University, published in 2020, found only 27 per cent of teachers felt well supported by their school to teach students about news media, with 37 per cent of teachers expressing that they either felt unsupported, or did not know if they felt supported, by the Australian Curriculum to teach news literacy, after interviewing Australian educators.

Additionally, only 18 per cent of respondents indicated they had access to professional development opportunities to equip them to teach students about news media.

One person’s misinformation can be another person’s truth.

Whilst misinformation is not a new concept, the rise in social media over the last few years has seen a significant increase in fake news and conspiracy theories, Perry said.

Researchers at the watchdog organisation NewsGuard found nearly one in five videos posted on TikTok contain misinformation, with the videos studied exploring misinformation surrounding the topics of climate change, school shootings, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the USA presidential elections and COVID-19 vaccines.

“We’ve always had gossip, we’ve always had conspiracy theories, it’s just the extent to which you’re exposed to it now without any other countering information,” said Perry.

“It’s extremely difficult to have inclusive societies and empowered citizens if the information those citizens have access to is not of a good quality, because they’re then making decisions based on poor information.

“One person’s misinformation can be another person’s truth.”

Canva montage: social media image by Photo Mix from Pixabay and screenshot of Hannah Perry from the Trusted Media Summit webpage.