Scunthorpe

Nic Dakin: With fake news, how do we know who to trust today?

During my superb visit to Frederick Gough School I was quizzed by the School Council. The discussion was wide and varied picking up the many issues of our day including possible Scottish devolution and the challenges of the UK finding its new place in the world outside the European Union.

But the question that got me thinking was the one about fake news. How do we know which news sources to trust today?

I reflected that we are no longer in a world where the news comes to us mainly through sources whose provenance and perspective are well understood whether that be the BBC or the Daily Mail.

Now our news comes to us through a myriad of sources, splintered through electronic media.

How do we know who to trust? Or who to be healthily sceptical of? Or who to definitely not to trust?

With an American President who embraces Twitter and condemns the BBC the old certainties are long gone.

The students’ teacher, who had been a student of mine at John Leggott College some 10 years previously, remarked that when he was in the sixth form it was ‘Myspace’ not ‘Facebook’ or ‘Twitter’ that was the platform for group conversations.

Myspace! Who can remember ‘Myspace’? And then it was occasional not ever-present, not ubiquitous like now.

For the youngsters I was chatting to these platform are part of their everyday lives in a way in which they weren’t as recently as 10 years ago.

Global change continues to accelerate so we can’t know now if Instagram and Snapchat will become as obsolete as Myspace or if they are here to stay as part of what shapes our lives and determines our world view manipulated by algorithms and other things I can hardly start to understand.

What the Fred Gough students and teachers agreed is that we need to equip our young people as well as the rest of us to be able to ask the questions about sources. To be healthily sceptical about fake news. After all it is nothing new.

The Zinoviev Letter published by the Daily Mail four days before the 1924 general election was a forgery designed to undermine the Labour Party with its lies which it successfully did.

Another thing to be healthily sceptical about is my running ability. For reasons that now escape me I find myself committed to spend St George’s Day this year running the London Marathon.

I am not convinced I will slay the dragon of the challenge before me!

But I will be raising money for the three pancreatic cancer charities who I champion as Chair of the Party Parliamentary Group on Pancreatic Cancer and two amazing local charities – Lindsey Lodge Hospice and Scunthorpe Food Bank.

Another thing we didn’t have 10 years ago was Just Giving pages.

If you fancy encouraging me this St George’s Day you can go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/nicdakinmp