Italy and Israel have started courses with the help of digital companies
After reading the horrors in Dante's `Inferno,' Italian students will soon turn to the dangers of the digital age.While juggling math assignments, they'll also tackle work sheets prepared by reporters from the national broadcaster RAI.
And separate from the weekly hour of religion, they will receive a list of what amounts to a new set of Ten Commandments. Among them: Thou shalt not share unverified news; thou shall ask for sources and evidence; thou shall remember that the internet and social networks can be manipulated.
The lessons are part of an extraordinary experiment by the Italian government, in cooperation with leading digital companies including Facebook, to train a generation of stu dents steeped in social media how to recognize fake news and conspiracy theories online.
They are not alone. The Jerusalem Post recently reported that the University of Haifa, a public research institution in Israel, is launching a course simply titled “Fake News.“ In the class, professor Yaniv Levyatan hopes to help students improve their critical thinking skills by dissecting various types of propaganda and explaining its effects.
Levyatan explained that though the American presidential campaign may be the harshest proof of the fake news problem so far, it's not just a US issue.
In Italy, the initiative will be rolled out in 8,000 high schools starting on October 31. “Fake news drips drops of poison into our daily web diet and we end up infected without even realizing it,“ said Laura Boldrini, the president of the Italian lower house of Parliament, who has spearheaded the project with the Italian Ministry of Education.
Ahead of crucial Ital ian elections early next year, the country has become an espe cially fertile ground for digital deceit.
Frustrated by economic woes, upset by a migrant crisis and fed a steady diet of partisan media, many Italians subscribe to all kinds of conspiracy theories.
Boldrini asserts that the web can not be forfeited to the fringes, and that the government must teach the next generation how to defend themselves against falsehoods and conspiracy theories designed to play on their fears.