Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Jade Gibbons
As early as 2013 Dr. Nichole Pinkard, founder of Chicago’s Digital Youth Network, is on record highlighting that ‘literacy has always been defined by the technology. Before the printing press, your ability to orally recite something meant to be literate.’ Pinkard set out the aim of the Digital Youth Network as to ‘prepare kids [aged 11-17 years old] for the year 2020 and beyond.’ This is where I pause and wonder if Dr Pinkard knew something that the rest of us did not know. But I digress.
There are so many schools of thought on what digital literacy is that several academics and experts in the area prefer to use the term digital literacies, plural. For simplicity I will use the term digital literacy, singular and define it as follows: “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”
To be digitally literate means that one not only consumes digital content but one can also create it. Similar to how being literate in the traditional sense means one can both read and write. To be literate in the digital sense means one can both consume and create. Given the global digital migration caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, it is easy to grasp the importance of digital literacy in the years beyond 2020.
However, increasing the digital literacy of a population will not solve the problems caused by misinformation and disinformation. Misinformation is false or inaccurate information. Disinformation is information which is intended to mislead. The difference between the two is intent.
Similar to how the difference between manslaughter and murder is whether or not the perpetrator intended to kill the victim. The difference between misinformation and disinformation is whether or not the person supplying the information had deceptive and/ or malevolent motives.
Every hurricane season or whenever there is a flood, we are all bombarded with pictures and videos of particular areas, with relatives claiming that the area pictured is currently underwater. Then on closer inspection, we see some landmark or feature that indicates that the picture sent is from 3 or 4 years ago. In this instance your relative is culpable for spreading misinformation.
They did not mean to but, in their carelessness and/ignorance, they have contributed to creating unnecessary panic. The recent doctored video of Governor General Dame Sandra Mason’s Covid-19 vaccination is an example of disinformation.
Some individual/s used their digital literacy to create toxic, misleading propaganda. Their actions reveal the blackness of their hearts because a hoax that could lead to the death of people is not funny, it is sinister.
According to Section 5 of The Computer Misuse Act a person who knowingly or recklessly, and without lawful excuse or justification, (a) destroys or alters data…is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to a fine of $50 000 or to imprisonment for a term of five years or to both.
And according to Section 14 where a person uses a computer to send a message, letter, electronic communication or article of any description that (a) is indecent or obscene; (b) is or constitutes a threat; or (c) is menacing in character, and he intends to cause or is reckless as to whether he causes annoyance, inconvenience, distress or anxiety to the recipient or to any other person to whom he intends it or its contents to be communicated, he is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $10 000 or to imprisonment for a term of 12 months or to both.
Of importance to note is that under the Act, the term computer is not used in the traditional sense. And a computer system refers to a device or a group of inter-connected or related devices, including the Internet, one or more of which, pursuant to a programme, facilitates communication, performs automatic processing of data or any other function.
So how do you deal with misinformation and disinformation? I hate to say it but the source matters. Get your information from someone who is reputable, that you trust and is an expert in that specific area. All three prerequisites matter. For example, your pastors may be reputable.
And you may, rightly, trust them because they have been faithful in their spiritual leadership and their guidance has helped you navigate the troubled waters for life. However, unless your pastor is also a medical doctor or a nurse or a pharmacist or someone who has direct involvement in the healthcare industry, if he or she tells you that COVID-19 was caused by 5G do not believe that.
Jade Gibbons is an arts and business graduate with a keen interest in social issues and film-making. See https://www.jadegibbons246.com