Connections For All

One in ten people in Wales are not online; this can mean missing out financially, socially and in accessing services and information. NPC Wales are launching our Connections For All, or Cysylltiadau i Bawb campaign. We are joining NPC UK in calling for an end to digital poverty, and we will be running a series of events around this topic over the next year. You can read more about the NPC UK campaign here.


Our first event as part of the Connections For All / Cysylltiadau i Bawb campaign was a webinar on Safer Internet Day. With more older people isolating at home and apart from friends, family and support networks, their need to use the internet safely has never been greater. Much good is already happening in Wales, but more can be done to overcome the barriers that discourage older people from embracing the online world.

 

The webinar brought together a panel of leading experts to discuss the need to keep Wales’s oldest and most vulnerable people connected:

 

  • Glyn Jones, Chief Digital Officer at the Welsh Government 

  • Dereck Roberts, Chairman of the National Pensioners Convention Wales
  • Derek Walker, CEO of the Wales Co-operative Centre which delivers Digital Communities Wales
  • George Jones, who leads on community services and inclusion for the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales
  • Jo Galazka, representing UNITE Community Members and UNITE Retired Members
  • Jenny Sims, NPC Wales Executive Member, Chair of NPC's Digital Inclusion/Exclusion Working Party and co-chair of the NUJ's 60+ Council


You can find this recording on the Digital Communities Wales Youtube Channel:























As part of our Cysylltiadau i Bawb / Connections For All campaign we will be writing about different aspects of digital access and safety. Here is our first blog, on the topic of avoiding digital misinformation.


As the amount of information on the internet grows, we all need to be careful about what we read and share online. At its most harmless, we could click on a phony news story written to generate revenue for a website, AKA ‘click bait’. At its worst, we might inadvertently spread damaging conspiracy theories.


We’ve recently heard a lot about “fake news”, news that the writer knows is false but publishes anyway. This can be problematic as it increases mistrust in the media and can even lead to people changing their beliefs based on what they read. Over time, their beliefs can become more extreme.


How is this false information spread?

Misinformation can be spread through any online medium. These may include: websites designed to look like trusted news outlets such as the BBC, social media sites like Facebook, and private messaging tools like WhatsApp. In 2020, conspiracy theories about Coronavirus were shared over WhatsApp, which has over 1.5b monthly users. This led the company to introduce its fact checking feature. This limits the amount of people you can forward messages on to, and you can fact check some of the most widely-shared messages by clicking on the magnifying glass button. WhatsApp says this has led to a 70% drop in the spread of viral messages.


Ways you can watch out for false information

  1. Does the website where you find the story look genuine? Is the website address at the top of the page something normal like “.co.uk” or “.com” or “.wales”? If it is something like “.com.co” it might be that you have found yourself on an unreliable website. Sometimes a website sounds official, but when you look for contact details you find that the contact information is only a Gmail or Hotmail address. This could indicate that all is not as it seems.

  2. Check if the story has been reported elsewhere. You might also get a different perspective on the story, which can help us make up our minds about it. You could also Google the author, if they are mentioned in the by-line.

  3. Check the date. Old news stories are sometimes circulated as if they are new. Some websites, like the BBC and the Guardian, will give you a warning if the article you are looking at is old.

  4. Check the language used. Sometimes a story might seem unremarkable, but language is used to subtly signal the political leanings of its author. For example, a news story might refer to a “global banking elite”, a phrase often used to spread false conspiracies about Jewish people. How do you feel after you read it? Often a story that makes you feel outraged or frightened will have been designed to make you feel that way.

  5. Check the picture goes with right story. Sometimes people share real pictures with a story that doesn’t match them. For example, a picture of Asian men celebrating was used on a Facebook post to say they were celebrating the Paris terrorist attack in 2017. The picture was actually of Pakistani cricket fans celebrating their 2009 Twenty20 Cricket tournament win. You can use a reverse image search to find out where an image came from. Find out how here: Search with an image on Google - Computer - Google Search Help.
  6. Consult a fact-checking website such as com. American website Snopes is a fact checking website. They take commonly shared news stories and give each story a true or false rating. Full Fact is an independent website based in the UK, covering issues such as coronavirus and Brexit. They also have a weekly newsletter.

How can you counter false information?

  1. Don’t engage on social media. Social media sites are designed to reward posts that get the biggest reaction, pushing them to the top. If you do respond, do it privately.

  2. Report the misinformation to the website itself, and group admins if applicable (eg: if it’s shared in a group.)

  3. Drown it out with official advice. Share resources from the Welsh Government, or Public Health Wales.

What if I’m worried about someone?

The Coronavirus crisis and lockdown has led to an increase of people sharing misinformation. Viren Swami, a social psychology professor at Anglia Ruskin University says that spending more time alone and more time online can lead to people being more vulnerable to conspiracy theories.

If a friend or family member has started to share misinformation or conspiracy theories, it can be hard to know what to do. Try not to condemn their beliefs outright, as this might cause them to become defensive. Instead, you could ask them if there is any part of their beliefs that gives them any doubt, or agree that if you read one of their articles, they will read one that you send back to them.

Where can you go to get help?

A wide variety of free support and training to help people access and use the internet is available from libraries, community hubs, charities, voluntary and other organisations throughout Wales.


The Center for Countering Digital Hate is an organisation which aims to strengthen communities and democracy by disrupting misinformation online. For example, they have a campaign called #DontSpreadtheVirus which is about misinformation regarding Coronavirus. Visit their website to find out more: Center for Countering Digital Hate (counterhate.com)

The Age Cymru and Age UK social media accounts frequently share information about commonly shared scams. The website gives further information about how to avoid scams and keep yourself safe. Find out more here: Scams and fraud | Money Matters | Age Cymru (ageuk.org.uk)


Digital Communities Wales exists to reduce digital exclusion in Wales. They want a Wales where everyone has the skills, access and motivation to be a confident user of digital technology.


The Good Things Foundation is a partner of Digital Communities Wales, which manages an Online Centres Network. One click on their Find Help Near You box on https:www.goodthingsfoundation.org brings up a map of local places to recieve help. Or, call 01143 491666.  Email: hello@goodthingsfoundation.org or write to Good Things Foundation, 1st Floor, 1 East Parade, Sheffield, S1 2E1. 


You can view this information in graphic form here.