Google Canada Backs Literacy Program with Fake News Focus

A news literacy program aimed to educate 1.5 million school-aged Canadians on misinformation and fake news is receiving a $500,000 grant from Google Canada.

The search giant’s philanthropic arm is backing the classroom program called NewsWise. The program will teach elementary and high school students how to detect fake news and recognize misinformation by learning how to find and filter accurate information online.

“Fake news accelerates distrust in our institutions, including distrust of the trained media who spend so much time trying to hold the powerful to account,” said David Walmsley, CJF chair and The Globe and Mail’s editor.

Armed with half a million dollars, the Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) and CIVIX have teamed up to deliver the program that hopes to give students aged 9 to 19 a deeper understanding of the role journalism plays in democracy.

“If we’re going to foster trust in journalism, we need to reach the next generation of news consumers and ensure they understand the role journalism plays in our society. This initiative provides an arena to engage a younger audience and to ensure they’re equipped with the skills to identify reliable sources of information,” said Walmsley.

The two Canadian non-profits will work with academics and journalists to develop the NewsWise curriculum, with the goal of delivering the program before Ontario’s provincial election next year and the 2019 federal election.

“Access to reliable news sources is critical to fully engaging in the democratic process,” said CIVIX CEO Taylor Gunn. “Giving young Canadians an understanding of the role journalism plays in our society and the knowhow to find and filter information is essential in nurturing an informed citizenry for the long term.”

In a joint-authored post by Gunn and Natalie Turvey, the CJF’s executive director, the pair commented on how both social media and online information overload have changed how people consume and share news.

NewsWise will be a part of CIVIX’s Student Vote, a program where students learn about the electoral process, political parties and policy issues at school. The Student Vote program is run in 7,500 schools across Canada, reaching 98 per cent of school boards.