France is no stranger to fake news and even has a word for it – infox (although the English term ‘fake news’ is very widely used, doubtless to the fury of the Academie française).
This was particularly evident during the Covid-19 pandemic where conspiracy theories were rife.
In a bid to push back against disinformation, the French government funds media education courses to help schoolchildren learn how to spot disinformation.
The children learn how to cross reference articles and videos that they see online and check where the information is coming from.
During the sessions, middle school pupils are asked to assess the credibility of a dozen articles and explain their reasoning.
Last year some four million children took part in these courses.
“They [children] read emotional and sensational things all the time and they share it to have the biggest numbers of likes and clicks,” said Alexandrine Lopez-Follin, a teacher in Seine-Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris. “They become recipients and senders of fake news without realising it.”
She said that children are “very receptive” to the courses.
“We see that when they come out, they understand the mechanism [of fake news operators] and they say to themselves ‘I’ve fallen for it once, I won’t fall for it again.'”