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Media Literacy

Israeli University Course Takes on Fake News

An Israeli university claims to be the first institution in the world to offer "Fake News," a course that is intended to prepare students with the critical thinking skills for sorting fact from fiction. During the course, offered at the University of Haifa, students will undertake activities such as studying Nazi propaganda and watching excerpts from the movie "1984," which is based on George Orwell's novel. The class is being taught by Yaniv Levyatan, an expert in psychological warfare, cyber warfare, digital marketing and propaganda.

"Fake news has created a situation in which we can no longer believe anyone or anything, since we have no way of evaluating the credibility of the flood of information we encounter," said Levyatan in an article on the university's website. "People fail to appreciate that 50 percent of online traffic are 'bots' performing various actions in the web, including the production of fake news. This does not happen for no reason and, of course, there are those who benefit from this situation and want to see it continue. This creates a serious challenge for the future of democracies."

According to Levyatan, the course will cover the "erosion of traditional journalism in recent years" along with historical methods of information-manipulators, including Nazi propagandists, to acquire the skills for identifying the authenticity of today's media.

Students will also view those excerpts from 1984, a place Orwell "could never have imagined," suggested Levyatan. "In '1984,'the authorities control us mainly through the 'telescreen,' which can see what we are doing," he said. "Today's technological devices, which we use of our own free will — such as the smartphone and social networks — allow the elite to penetrate our minds."

His hope is that the students who complete his course "will be more critical about the information they absorb, have a firmer understanding of the information industry and be better equipped to analyze and understand reality."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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