Fighting Fake News in Finland via Schools

We have witnessed years now of conventional and now digital media being manipulated to confuse, misinform and mislead the public of all ages round science of climate change or global warming, politics and campaigns, immigrants and population growth, vaccinations, natural disasters, religion and minorities etc.

Like some states in Australia used to teach critical thinking to high school students in the 1970s, since been ’embedded’ and/or disappeared, Finland has taken the lead in developing skills at primary school age dealing with Russia especially, and global warming denialism.

From The Guardian:

‘How Finland starts its fight against fake news in primary schools

Country on frontline of information war teaches everyone from school pupils to politicians how to spot slippery information

You can start when children are very young, said Kari Kivinen. In fact, you should: “Fairytales work well. Take the wily fox who always cheats the other animals with his sly words. That’s not a bad metaphor for a certain kind of politician, is it?”

With democracies around the world threatened by the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of false information, Finland – recently rated Europe’s most resistant nation to fake news – takes the fight seriously enough to teach it in primary school.

In secondary schools, such as the state-run college in Helsinki where Kivinen is head teacher, multi-platform information literacy and strong critical thinking have become a core, cross-subject component of a national curriculum that was introduced in 2016.

In maths lessons, Kivinen’s pupils learn how easy it is to lie with statistics. In art, they see how an image’s meaning can be manipulated. In history, they analyse notable propaganda campaigns, while Finnish language teachers work with them on the many ways in which words can be used to confuse, mislead and deceive.

“The goal is active, responsible citizens and voters,” Kivinen said. “Thinking critically, factchecking, interpreting and evaluating all the information you receive, wherever it appears, is crucial. We’ve made it a core part of what we teach, across all subjects.”

The curriculum is part of a unique, broad strategy devised by the Finnish government after 2014, when the country was first targeted with fake news stories by its Russian neighbour, and the government realised it had moved into the post-fact age.

Successful enough for Finland to top, by some margin, an annual index measuring resistance to fake news in 35 European countries, the programme aims to ensure that everyone, from pupil to politician, can detect – and do their bit to fight – false information.

“This affects all of us,” said Jussi Toivanen, chief communications officer for the prime minister’s office. “It targets the whole of Finnish society. It aims to erode our values and norms, the trust in our institutions that hold society together.”

Finland, which declared independence from Russia in 1917, is on the frontline of an online information war that has accelerated markedly since Moscow annexed Crimea and backed rebels in eastern Ukraine five years ago, Toivanen said.

Most campaigns, amplified by sympathetic far-right, nation-first and “alternative” Finnish news sites and social media accounts, focus on attacking the EU, highlighting immigration issues and trying to influence debate over Finland’s full Nato membership.

Resistance is seen almost as a civil defence question, a key component in Finland’s comprehensive security policy. Toivanen said: “We are a small country, without many resources, and we rely on everyone contributing to the collective defence of society.”

The programme, piloted by a 30-member, high-level committee representing 20 different bodies from government ministries to welfare organisations and the police, intelligence and security services, has trained thousands of civil servants, journalists, teachers and librarians over the past three years.

“It’s a broad-based, coordinated effort to raise awareness,” said Saara Jantunen, a senior researcher from the defence ministry who has been seconded to the prime minister’s office. “Like virus protection on your computer: the government’s responsible for a certain amount, of course, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to install the software.”…

…..He wants his pupils to ask questions such as: who produced this information, and why? Where was it published? What does it really say? Who is it aimed at? What is it based on? Is there evidence for it, or is this just someone’s opinion? Is it verifiable elsewhere?

On the evidence of half a dozen pupils gathered in a classroom before lunchtime, it is an approach that is paying off. “You must always factcheck. The number one rule: no Wikipedia, and always three or four different and reliable sources,” said Mathilda, 18. “We learn that basically in every subject.”….

…..Part of that continuing education is also provided by NGOs. Besides operating an effective factchecking service, Faktabaari (Fact Bar), launched for the 2014 European elections and run by a volunteer staff of journalists and researchers, produces popular voter literacy kits for schools and the wider public.

“Essentially, we aim to give people their own tools,” said its founder, Mikko Salo, a member of the EU’s independent high-level expert group on fake news. “It’s about trying to vaccinate against problems, rather than telling people what’s right and wrong. That can easily lead to polarisation.”

In the run-up to Finland’s parliamentary elections last April, the government went so far as to produce an advertising campaign alerting voters to the possibility of fake news, with the slogan “Finland has the best elections in the world. Think about why”.

Similarly, Mediametka has been developing and working with media literacy tools since the more innocent days of the early 1950s, when its founders were motivated mainly by fear of the irreparable damage that comic books might do to the minds of Finnish children.

These days, the NGO, part-funded by the culture ministry, organises ed-tech hackathons with inventive Finnish startups in a bid to develop “meaningful materials” for schools and youth groups, said its executive director, Meri Seistola.

“We work with pictures, videos, text, digital content; get our students to produce their own; ask them to identify all the various kinds of misleading news,” said Seistola: from propaganda to clickbait, satire to conspiracy theory, pseudoscience to partisan reporting; from stories describing events that simply never happened to unintentional errors of fact.

Finland has something of a head start on information literacy, ranking consistently at or near the top of international indices for press freedom, transparency, education and social justice. Its school pupils have the EU’s highest PISA score for reading.

“The level of trust in national institutions, in the media, in society as a whole, does tend to be higher in the Nordic countries than in many others,” said Faktabaari’s Salo. “But that means we really need even greater vigilance now, to prepare ourselves for the next phase. Because we have more to lose.”’

 

For more articles and blogs about younger generations, critical thinking, climate change and curriculum click through.

 

NOM Net Overseas Migration – Immigration – Population Growth

Population, Immigration and Net Overseas Migration NOM

Interesting article on immigration and NOM net overseas migration by former Australian Department of Immigration Deputy Secretary Abul Rizvi endeavouring to insert some understanding and clarity round the ‘immigration’ debate when most misunderstand, misinterpret or misrepresent immigration and population data.

 

 

This is manifested in media, political and public narratives that focus upon the NOM and the false notion that it is both unusually high and can be micromanaged; underpinned by lack of detail or ‘solution’ to lowering the NOM (without assessment of broader societal impacts).

 

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Putting the numbers back into the immigration debate

ABUL RIZVI 20 FEBRUARY 2018

Drastically reducing net migration would be neither easy nor wise, says a former senior official.

How governments manage migration is a big deal. A perception of too many arrivals drove the Brexit result in Britain, helped define the Trump presidency, and fuelled the rising populist vote in Europe. Japan’s ageing population is driving its government to increase immigration — but ever so cautiously, recognising the likely backlash from its largely homogeneous population. And the same demographic forces have driven China to try to attract back part of its huge diaspora.

Yet, despite our long immigration tradition, Australia’s immigration debate is tortured and surprisingly poorly informed. Until very recently, this was not helped by the Turnbull government’s eerie silence on immigration levels and population policy. Immigration minister Peter Dutton’s tentative foray late last week should therefore be welcomed.

Given the complexities, immigration ministers have an obligation to be accurate with the data and honest about the range of issues to be considered in significantly reducing the intake. Dutton was neither.

 

Issues and Critique of Net Overseas Migration Statistics and Data

 

The NOM is a measure of movements, not designed as an ‘immigration’ target but merely measures numbers of people (irrespective of nationality, visa status and includes Australians) who enter Australia with the intention of remaining longer than 12/16+ months (ABS, 2017).

Rizvi cites several variables or inputs that would be required to control or lower the NOM.  This would include restricting rights of Australians marrying foreigners, restricting numbers of international students, preclude second year visas for working holiday makers doing agricultural work, close the refugee program, limit New Zealanders and seek out overstayers.

Other issues or features neither understood nor highlighted:

  1. Few nations use the same NOM as a measure to estimate resident population apart from Australia, UK and NZ then e.g. in the EU Schengen Zone it’s impossible due to free movement and that most nations appear to estimate from e.g. residency registration or census data (UN, 2015).
  2. Rizvi also fails to mention the cumulative statistical impact of an ageing population of citizens and permanent residents (includes significant numbers of British subjects) who were already in country 2006 when line was drawn in the sand on population; many have neither departed nor returned to Australia long term and have two impacts upon the data (and census). First is longevity due to better health hence staying in the data longer (though invisible) being attributed to ‘immigration’.  However, this will change when the baby boomer demographic starts departing this earth in the medium long term in about five years onwards i.e. deaths will outnumber births for long term thus impacting the estimated resident population significantly.  This is also set against already declining fertility rates and global population ex. Sub Saharan Africa, expected to peak by mid-century as explained by development, medical and statistics expert Professor Hans Rosling (Gapminder, 2013).
  3. A significant financial reason for encouraging temporary residents with no likelihood of permanent residency outcomes, whether students, backpackers etc., is as net financial contributors paying taxes without future access to state services. In other words, they support or subsidise increasing numbers of retirees needing pensions, health care etc. dependent upon healthy state budgets (with decreasing dependency ratio of workforce tax payer numbers to retirees).
  4. Further, statistical analysis has found that not only is the NOM very confusing, it may over estimate Australia’s population significantly, through double counting those not in country but not outside for more than 12/16+ months:

Except on migration. On this single metric, it’s as if the entire world converges into a deafeningly silent consensus. Population! At last a hard number. Something tangible, physical, consistent. The cacophony of economic debate subsides as everyone gather’s around to pay homage at the altar of the purest, simplest driver of demand, production, and everything else. The one undisputed back-stop to debate…Trying to find a simple and defensible explanation of a complex issue isn’t easy. But for migration, I think there is one. I’ll describe it here in prose, and in a later post gather some of the graphs and data that support it. There has been a level shift. But it hasn’t been in ‘migration’, as everyone actually intends and understands the word. The shift that we should be talking about has been in mobility.’ (Quixotic Quant, 2017a).

 

The alternative story is that sometime in the mid-2000s the Australian Bureau of Statistics changed the definition of an official statistic called “Net Overseas Migration”. The arbitrary definition they had at the time was malfunctioning, and the next arbitrary one they changed to has been malfunctioning even worse. A blithely ignorant press didn’t even notice the change, let alone query the disfunction that inspired it, so the entire country has been putting their faith soaring population figure that has the integrity of custard. The harder alternative figure shows that our migration rate is actually flat’ (Quixotic Quant, 2017b).

 

  1. By using ‘Migration’ in NOM to describe the definition may simply be a linguistic coincidence, however, it is highly suggestive of a direct correlation with permanent immigration and long-term population growth, which does not exist (except by some indirect correlation set amongst other factors).
  2. The local and global NGOs, think tanks, institutes, commentators, ‘ecologists’, media and politicians who constantly highlight supposed negative aspects of immigration and ‘sustainable’ population growth have been influenced or manipulated by the US white nativist movement, with the latter being influential amongst Republican Party and Trump (SPLC, 2001) in turn influenced by Darwin’s cousin Galton’s ‘science of eugenics and racial hygiene’ (Das, 2015).
  3. Post WWII prior to the formation of the UN Population Council the Rockefeller Foundation (Standard Oil/Exxon Mobil) co-opted the American Eugenics Society (AES) which had become discredited by the Nazis and their ‘research’ at The Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes in Germany, to then form the UN Population Council (Kurbegovic, 2005 & Novielli, 2017).
  4. Also, to emerge with support of same and similar oligarchs’ (fossil fuels and auto) foundations were Zero Population Growth (ZPG) (Bentley Historical Library – University of Michigan, 2018), Zero Economic Growth (ZEG) (Daly, 1980) and the Club of Rome ‘limits to growth’, etc. constructs (Green Agenda, 2018) to popularise negative perceptions of population growth and immigration as ‘liberal and environmental’ concerns (Stern, 2005).
  5. Demographically it is now coming to a head for many whether middle Europe or the ‘Anglosphere’ with the refrain, ‘brown people, Moslems etc. are going to outnumber white people or WASPs leading to demographic suicide….’.

 

Reference List:

 

ABS – Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017) 3412.0 – Migration, Australia, 2015-16 Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/exnote/3412.0 (Accessed on: 25 February 2018).

Bentley Historical Library – University of Michigan (2018) John Tanton Papers: 1960-2007. Available at: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/b/bhlead/umich-bhl-861056?byte=53770321;focusrgn=bioghist;subview=standard;view=reslist (Accessed on: 27 February 2018).

Daly, H. (1980) Why the Industrial World Needs Zero Economic Growth (Recording). Available at: https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/34007423?selectedversion=NBD22971101 (Accessed on 27 February 2018).

Das, S. (2015) Francis Galton and the History of Eugenics at UCL.  Available at: https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/museums/2015/10/22/francis-galton-and-the-history-of-eugenics-at-ucl/

Gapminder (2013) Don’t Panic – The Facts About Population. Available at: https://www.gapminder.org/videos/dont-panic-the-facts-about-population/ (Accessed on: 25 February 2018).

Green Agenda (2018) The First Global Revolution. Available at: http://www.green-agenda.com/globalrevolution.html (Accessed on: 27 February 2018).

Kurbegovic, C. (2013). Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics (KWI-A). Available at: http://eugenicsarchive.ca/discover/connections/5233cdc25c2ec500000 Accessed on 25 February 2018).

Novielli, C. (2017) The Population Council has a shocking 65-year history, and it’s nothing to celebrate. Available at: https://www.liveaction.org/news/population-council-founded-eugenicists-promoting-abortion-turns-65/ (Accessed on: 25 February 2018).

Quixotic Quant (2017a) The state of debate: A bird’s-eye on migration. Available at: https://www.quixoticquant.com/post/the-state-of-debate-a-bird-s-eye-on-migration/  (Accessed on: 27 January 2018).

Quixotic Quant (2017b) The Missing Million: Is Australia’s migration rate actually high? Available at: https://www.quixoticquant.com/post/the-missing-million/ (Accessed on: 27 January 2018).

SPLC Southern Poverty Law Center (2010) Anti-Immigration Groups. Available at: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2001/anti-immigration-groups (Accessed on 25 February 2018).

Stern, M. (2005) Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America. California: University of California Press.

UN – United Nations – Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2015) International Migration Flows to and From Selected Countries: The 2015 Revision. Available at: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/empirical2/docs/migflows2015documentation.pdf (Accessed on: 25 February 2018).