Information vs opinion

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As part of the series “How do we make information”, in collaboration with Agence Science-Presse, we are now interested in how to distinguish information from opinion.
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The radio station CHOI FM, well known to the people of Quebec, faced a sudden boycott from most of its advertisers. In fact, following the station's refusal to broadcast an advertisement from the Government of Quebec concerning disinformation related to COVID-19, several companies have decided to suspend their purchases of advertising blocks.

Hydro-Quebec, Desjardins, Qualinet, Uniprix, La Capitale Assurance, Pizza royale, IA Financial Group, Groupe Paquet and Mercedez-Benz Quebec are some of the names that no longer want to be associated with CHOI Radio X for the moment. de Québec was the first to withdraw its advertisements from the airwaves of this radio station. Since then, the mayor of Quebec, Régis Labeaume, indicates to have received a formal notice from RNC Media, owner of CHOI Radio X, summoning him to withdraw the “defamatory accusations” which would have led to the loss of many advertisers.

These "defamatory accusations" refer to the criticisms of Mayor Labeaume where it is about CHOI Radio X which "promotes opposition to health measures during this period of serious pandemic" and their speech of "trivialization" of the pandemic which is "dangerous" for the health of the population.

Concretely, what is criticized at CHOI Radio X is to do in disinformation rather than in information in some respects. For example, giving airtime to pandemic deniers such as Alexis Cossette-Trudel, Lucie Laurier and Ken pereira does nothing to get the facts straight about COVID-19. Their opinions often undermine the credibility of science experts and confuse the public.

It is often difficult for many people to differentiate between information and opinion. We want to be confirmed in our beliefs, so it happens that a conspirator who is loaned a microphone to CHOI Radio X can succeed in convincing a part of the population to rally to a cause which is not supported by scientific facts. . People need to be reassured, to know all the answers, to have a feeling of control over the situation. In these extraordinary times, it's easy to let emotions take over your mind. This is why we find so much content with questionable intentions, which can lead to the development of different cognitive biases and at the same time alter our critical judgment. Some gurus and charlatans do not hesitate to take advantage of the situation to influence and rally as many people as possible to their cause:

“On Monday, August 3, the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec published the results of a study which revealed the beliefs of Quebecers about the pandemic, in particular their tendency to adhere to conspiracy theories. The study revealed that more than a third of the population adheres to some form of conspiracy. Earlier in May, a Carleton University study also found that 46 % of Canadians surveyed subscribed to at least one conspiracy theory. "

Le Devoir, August 17, 2020

What's more, when the mainstream media are the misinformation, there is cause for concern. Denying the dangers of the current health crisis is dangerous. The Alexis Cossette-Trudel, Lucie Laurier and Ken Pereira of this world, by expressing their opinions in a traditional medium such as radio and at prime time, further erode the often too thin line between information and opinion.

“In 2018, the OECD also reported that less than one in ten 15-year-olds were able to distinguish between a fact and an opinion. This means that for several years now we have witnessed a rapid and constant deterioration in our collective capacity to distinguish the true from the false. "

Le Devoir, August 17, 2020

It is important, even essential, in the current context, to choose credible sources of information when it comes time to get informed, such as Radio-CanadaThe dutyThe newsScience-Press Agencythe École branchée. In addition to trusting these media that publish reliable content, web specialists have set up platforms where they sift through an impressive amount of news to disentangle the true from the false. Les Décrypteurs de Radio-Canadathe rumor detector from the Agence Science-Presse and the Decoders of the newspaper Le Monde are experts in dealing with fake news that spreads on social media. They restore the facts and give the right time, among other things, on everything related to COVID-19.

Here is how to do this verification work in three simple steps when consulting information sources:

1- Check the statement.

Important quotes from the article can be copied into Google to see if other media outlets are reporting on it in the same way. If you see several spelling mistakes, you can question the credibility. Of course, you have to read beyond the title to get a good feel for the content. Also look at the date of the article. Old posts often show up in the news feed and pass as new facts. Is the argument based on the point of view of amateurs or is there evidence that is provided by experts?

2- Check the source.

You can check the name of the source in Wikipedia. If it is credible, there is a good chance that it will be found there. Notice how the web address (URL) is written. For example, radio-canada.ca is reliable, but radio-canada.co is probably less reliable. You can also write the URL of a Web site or its name in the Decodex of the newspaper Le Monde to check if the source is trustworthy. You also have to be careful about sponsored content or partnerships. If there is a bias or remuneration, doubting the credibility is legitimate!

3- Check the image.

You can check the credibility of a photo by doing a reverse search in Google Images. You can then see if the image in question has been used elsewhere. Also check the caption below the image. A reliable source will give credit to the owner of the photo. Sites like Tineye.com or Amnesty International's Youtube DataViewer provide a lot of information about the provenance of photos and videos. Judgment and observation skills can also indicate whether a photo has been altered in Photoshop...

*You can download here an infographic produced by Agence Science-Presse which will serve as a reminder for your students to help them distinguish between information and opinion.

 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES

Disciplines and levels targeted
- French (Secondary 4)

  • Read and write a reasoned opinion text.
  • Knowing different arguments and theses on a subject or forming an opinion on a controversial subject.

Targeted dimensions of digital competence

  • Collaborate digitally
  • Producing content via digital technology
  • Developing and mobilizing information literacy
  • Communicating via digital technology

Suggested digital tools

  • Word cloud application such as Mentimeter;
  • Collaborative writing application such as Padlet, Google Docs or Microsoft Word;
  • Blog-style online publishing tool such as Wix or Blogger.

Educational intention of the guide

At the end of these activities, students will be able to distinguish information from opinion. They will be encouraged to develop reading reflexes that will help them sharpen their critical thinking.

Objectives of the activities

  • Create a collaborative document in which are found excerpts from articles relating to information and others from opinion.
  • Write a blog post in which information and opinions are present.
  • Using the blog's "comments" function, separate information from opinion in other students' posts.

Information vs opinion

On the menu of this activity sheet:

  • Exercise 1: Several studies show that more and more Canadians are getting their information from social networks. What are the consequences of this habit?
  • Exercise 2: Draw a portrait of your information bubble. These questions might help you find some answers: (...)
  • Exercise 3: Identify two ways to get out of your information bubble.

ABOUT THIS SPECIAL SERIES

Through eight pedagogical sheets, students will be put in the shoes of a journalist and carry out activities specially created to enlighten them on various facets of news production in the age of social networks. 

The design of the various educational sheets was made possible thanks to the collaboration between theScience-Press Agency and École branchée. Each sheet contains a theoretical part on a specific subject relating to the production of information, in addition to activities that tend to develop various disciplinary and digital skills in the student.

Check out the other guides in this special feature:
Sheet #2: How to recognize a reliable news site
Sheet #3: Journalistic sources
Sheet #4: Confirmation bias
Sheet #5: How to recognize hidden advertising
Sheet #6: News media
File #7: Scientific information
Sheet #8: Disinformation


SCOOP! this is...
 

Designed to fill short periods or inspire larger projects, the activities offered in the SCOOP! allow the teacher to approach the subject matter in the program in addition to developing the information literacy and digital skills of the students.

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