In many places around the world, social media is young people’s primary source of information and news. Knowledge about fact-checking is becoming increasingly relevant, and more facts are needed in journalism, politics and people’s everyday lives. Sweden wishes to play a role to make this happen. One example is our work in Vietnam.
“We saw that there was a need and a demand, as well as a real opportunity to work with schools in various countries through our embassies. Many embassies already have contacts established with younger target groups, and confidence in Sweden is clear on this type of issue,” says project manager Henrik Enbohm, who is responsible for democracy and freedom of the press issues at the Swedish Institute (SI).
The Fake ≠ Fact toolkit was therefore developed by SI, using material from the Internet Foundation in Sweden (IIS), Viralgranskaren (the Viral Scrutineer, a website of the Swedish newspaper Metro) and the Swedish Media Council. It has already been used by school pupils in Vietnam.
At the Swedish Embassy to Vietnam, the first event that was organised in January with pupils from a senior-level compulsory school in Hanoi was very well received. The Embassy also invited several guest speakers from the Vietnamese media.
The plan is now for teachers to take the project forward and include all 1 200 of the school’s pupils. The Embassy is also continuing to use the material and showcased it at the Vietnam Internet Forum in March, when a half day was devoted to a discussion about source criticism, together with some 300 pupils and teachers.
“Before getting started, we were a little worried about how the project would be received. Vietnam has a special climate for this type of issue. The country ranks very low on the World Press Freedom Index, and subjects like propaganda and source criticism can be sensitive,” says Victoria Rhodin Sandström, First Secretary at the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi.
But despite concerns, the reactions so far have been very positive. It is precisely this sensitive climate that makes the project even more important, according to Victoria Rhodin Sandström.
“In Vietnam there is only the state-controlled media. Knowledge about source criticism is very inadequate,” she says. This might explain why the project was met with such positive reactions, particularly from the pupils themselves.
“In many ways, they were better than their teachers. They have grown up with the internet and an entirely different kind of access to information. It was wonderful to see,” says Victoria Rhodin Sandström.
Vietnam has approximately 90 million inhabitants and of these, approximately 60 million have internet access. All Vietnamese media is state-controlled and the country is ranked every year among the five worst on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.