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Apple launches media literacy initiative to combat fake news

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Apple just joined the fight against fake news, by taking the battle to an arena where the seeds of disinformation are first planted, in impressionable young minds.

Just days before Apple’s Special Event on March 25 where it is expected to unveil a new subscription news service, the company announced its support for three organizations that offer media literacy training for young people, the US-based News Literacy Project and Common Sense, as well as the Italy-based Osservatorio Permanente Giovani-Editori.

The three nonprofit organizations will each receive support from Apple to advance their efforts in empowering young people with the critical thinking skills necessary in today’s digital age.

News literacy is vital to sustaining a free press and thriving democracy, and we are proud to be collaborating with organizations on the front lines of this effort,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We’ve been impressed by the important work being done by the News Literacy Project, Common Sense and Osservatorio, empowering young people to be active and engaged citizens.”

“Apple News is committed to presenting quality journalism from trusted sources,” said Lauren Kern, editor-in-chief of Apple News. “We’re thrilled that Apple is supporting these important organizations to train the next generation on how to seek out accurate and reliable information amid an increasingly complicated news landscape.”

While the company did not disclose the exact details of its contributions, News Literacy Project CEO Alan C. Miller said that “Apple’s investment in our work represents the largest corporate contribution in our history.” Retired technology journalist Walt Mossberg, now a NLP board member, tweeted out his profuse thanks:

We are grateful for Apple’s commitment to fighting misinformation and sustaining quality journalism,” said Alan C. Miller, founder and CEO of News Literacy Project.

“NLP is committed to equipping the next generation with the critical thinking skills to discern what news and other information to trust and the tools to become informed and engaged participants in our country’s democracy. We welcome this timely initiative to help achieve our vision of seeing news literacy embedded in the American educational experience.”

“The lack of young people’s news literacy skills is a growing problem for our country. Revelations about the manipulation of news and the resulting impact on society have shed light on both the importance and scale of the issue,” said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense.

We need to help our students not just seek out legitimate news, but also think critically about the broader world of media and ideas. Apple shares in our mission to raise a generation of children who will thrive as learners, leaders and citizens in the digital age, and Common Sense is delighted to be part of this important effort.”

In addition to supporting efforts to empower the next generation to be better-informed citizens, Apple CEO Tim Cook has joined the board of Osservatorio’s International Advisory Council.

“Our mission is to help young people develop critical thinking skills by comparing different sources of quality information,” said Andrea Ceccherini, founder and CEO of Osservatorio Permanente Giovani-Editori.

At a time when fake news is spreading, we cannot give in to the idea that third-party fact-checking services are the only way to assess the reliability of news sources. We can exercise our own minds, and be masters of our own destiny. Our ambition is to help form more citizens, increasingly opening our society to a culture of civilized debate and confrontation, which is the basis of every healthy democracy.”

Fake news engagement appears to be on the rise at the beginning of 2019, according to a report released by NewsWhip. With disinformation rising and bad actors becoming more sophisticated in its spread, initiatives like this are important to uphold the sanctity, quality, and trustworthiness of journalism. Apple’s motives may not be entirely altruistic, but the far-reaching benefits of such an initiative can’t be denied.

The News Literacy Project, Common Sense and Osservatorio Permanente Giovani-Editori offer nonpartisan, independent media literacy programs, and help students become “smart, active consumers of news” and other information. Further details on the three nonprofit organizations are available in Apple’s press release here.