RISE OF DISINFORMATION AND EDMO
‘The first casualty of War is Truth’ is an old saying (1) that comes to mind when I read the news on topics such as the war in Ukraine and Coved-19. Internet started out to be the place for unbridled freedom of speech; you can share your opinions freely without the approval of instituted institutions. Which still holds today. However, in 2016 during the Trump elections, the world first noticed that foreign countries could influence domestic affairs by actively influencing public opinion with news which is not true or the even more problematic: an almost true narrative. Spreading of disinformation became a real and hot topic. (2) This was the spark for the formation for the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO). EDMO describe themself as ‘bringing together fact-checkers, media literacy experts, and academic researchers to understand and analyse disinformation, in collaboration with media organizations, online platforms and media literacy practitioners’. (3, 3A) On 13-14 June 2022 they held their annual conference on tackling the rising challenges caused by disinformation.
DISINFORMATION AS A TERM
Let me first start with the term disinformation. Disinformation was described during the conference, as intentionally creating and spreading of fabricated news or opinions with the intention to destabilize. It is not someone sharing a pancake recipe which is incorrect or about having different views on the world and wanting to express your narrative, as Prof. Dr. Paul Verschure explained during the conference. It is more about actors spreading fictional news, because they want to influence or confuse the public negatively. There are so many narratives which are unreliable nowadays, how do we, as news consumers, know what we can rely on. (See also 4, 6 and 7 for examples)
The topics discussed during the annual conference were chosen so a strong basis could be formed to tackle these arising problems. ‘There is no silver bullet’, as Madeleine de Cock Buning emphasized, ‘we need them all’. Here follows a summary of the topics I took away:
Specialized research journalist who track the web and check online news items for facts so when we read an article, we as consumers, know what is trustworthy.
Mediatraining discussed for two groups. Training of society in being able to recognize the signs when news is possibly fake. The other group is training journalists on methods in online fact checking and on methods of reporting so it can be easily checked.
Giving context. Expanding knowledge on certain subjects so when something unreal passes, it automatically falls into the category unlikely, because someone knows better.
Code of practice
Creating a bridge between researchers and large commercial platforms so already collected data can be used more effectively. Can’t wait to hear about the innovations that will flow out of it. See here for the code (5).
Tools, such as Truly Media (8), for (research) journalists so they can do their job more effectively in less time and as a community. Another tool is (Google) Reverse Image Search, which can also help general public spot a picture that is used in the wrong context. (See 6, 7 and box below)
To wrap up I would like to share some food for thought. The idea that what we make, has the (sometimes high, sometimes low) potential to influence or it could be used to influence the society. It is up to us to do our best to make this influence as positive as possible.
How can we achieve this?
We omarmen multidisciplinaire samenwerkingen en integreren technologie, data en design voor positief maatschappelijk impact.