29 April 2024

Digital literacy and its role in combating disinformation | EFIVOS Articles


Author: Poamăneagră Ștefania

The world we live in is not the same as yesterday's; we are more interconnected than ever through social networks, television, news... whether we want it or not, we have direct contact with all kinds of information, from the most mundane advertisement that has appeared to you so many times until you knew it by heart, to a news article that, by its title, may seem harmless to you but is too exaggerated, and catches your attention. Hmm... What do you do in this situation? Obviously, out of curiosity, you enter and read. You read, read, and suddenly... what you read raises a question mark: 'Is what is written here true?' Well, it's not hard to find out.

What can you do to find out if a news story is false or true?

Over time, misinformation has become an increasingly dangerous weapon because it is so easy to use and accessible, unfortunately managing to manipulate very easily, unless you already possess digital literacy skills.

Digital Literacy is the ability to access, manage, understand, communicate, evaluate, and create information safely and appropriately through digital technologies, in a society where communication and access to information are increasingly done through internet platforms, social networks, and mobile devices. 

However, what role does Digital Literacy play?

Huge. It sounds cliché, but this type of education is necessary because all these skills mentioned above are meant to shape our critical thinking regarding the credibility of information received from the online environment. Critical thinking makes us more aware of fact-checking from reliable sources, but it also increases our level of skepticism when it comes to this type of information received.

A very good context in which Digital Literacy has played a crucial role is that of the Covid-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, we were subjected to a tough test of our lives, namely the challenge of not communicating face-to-face with the people we saw every day. What happened then? We became much more connected to the online environment, as it was our only connection to the outside world at that time. At that time, all those involved in disinformation campaigns reached their peak, in my opinion. What did this peak consist of? It consisted of the spread of false news, such as those related to vaccination. 

One news story related to vaccination that I strongly believe everyone has heard of was that, I quote: "Elon Musk intends through the Anti-Covid-19 vaccine to introduce microchips into people to control them, the vaccine having no effect against the virus", clearly false. After the dissemination of this news, I heard a lot of divided opinions online, even from close acquaintances, such as "it is true" or "another reason not to get vaccinated", even though they had no basis for declaring that news true because they did not check it. Why didn't they check it? Because at that time, the concept of Digital Literacy was not so well known and widespread, and the effect of those campaigns was immense, resulting to this day in a very worrying radicalization of the people around us. Well, we see the effect of disinformation campaigns, but what can we do about them? Very easy.

Here are some simple tips that will help you develop your critical thinking when reading a news story/receiving information.

  • Take a Break.

It may sound absurd, but the fact that we come into contact with so much news/advertisements every day can overwhelm and exhaust us. News has a 24-hour cycle – their production never stops, and most media outlets prefer to distribute news with a negative connotation which can affect you over time. What can you do about it? Challenge yourself to an hour without technology and spend it going for a walk, reading a book, listening to music, relaxing, and clearing your mind. This will definitely help you in developing critical thinking because you won't feel overwhelmed when you see that information.

  • Not all information is correct.

Don't forget that a good news story consists of concrete facts, objectively stated with reliable and verified sources. A reputable article will mention its sources, and it's your job to access them and see if the author has interpreted them correctly and if the information is consistent. Checking the news can only strengthen its credibility. Where did you find the news? On a news website, on an unknown blog, on a social media network? There are a few simple actions that can help you develop your critical thinking skills. For example, Wikipedia has an index of international websites and their accuracy ratings. 

  • Check the URL.

Most of the time, large and verified websites can have a URL address that is very similar to some copycat sites, with the address being very similar, perhaps having a special character that you may not have noticed. For example, the website who.int has a copycat site wh0.int. Incorrect information may appear on the copycat site compared to the original site..

  • Beware of your own biases.

If an article confirms your opinion, it's very tempting for you to accept the information even if it may not be true. This is a very common method when creating mass and attractive news just to get you to click on them, your click helping the authors of the news to make a living, the more news, the more money.

  • Check the author.

Search for them on the internet to see if they exist and if they are of quality. If this information does not appear, raise a question mark. Quality articles will obviously be made by quality authors, their feedback being directly based on the correctness of their articles.

  • Breakdown & Evaluation of Information

Another method that helps develop critical thinking and supports digital literacy is the ability to analyze information. This involves breaking down complex information into its component parts, evaluating the evidence presented, and considering the implications of the information. For example, if a news article presents statistics about a certain issue, it is important to evaluate the methodology used for data collection, the sample size, and the relevance of the statistics to the issue at hand.

  • Recognition of Mentioned Facts.

Critical thinking enables people to identify and evaluate the themes presented in a news story. News sources can be based on political or social values, financial interests, or personal opinions. It is important to recognize these facts and evaluate how they can affect the presentation of information. By developing these critical thinking skills, people can become more discerning consumers of news media and better equipped to make informed decisions based on the information presented.

In conclusion, Digital Literacy plays a crucial role in shaping critical thinking, and vice versa. Neither of them can function without relying on the other, their roles and importance being guaranteed justified in a society where the tendency is towards digitization and the online environment, becoming an influential means of information in people's lives.


This article is published under the framework of the EFIVOS project. EFIVOS is an initiative aimed at increasing knowledge and awareness of EU institutions, policies, and democratic procedures. This podcast has been funded through project 101081482 — EFIVOS in Europe — CERV-2022-CITIZENS-CIV.

​​The European Commission support for the production of this article does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflect the view only of the authors, and the Commission can not be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.