Here’s the last part of my summary of “Information Disorder,” authored by Claire Wardle, PhD, and Hossein Derkhshan and published by the Council of Europe. It addresses my concern about the complexity the modern consumer of news faces and the hard work it will take to advance any semblance of informed discourse in our digitally-connected societies.
Here’s the link to the 100-plus-page document. It’s a long, engaging document, tightly written, not easily summarized, since it covers a broad swath of the topic. So, what follows, is, by necessity, much longer than I’d like it to be.
So, I’ve broken this summary into pieces. All references are from that document, which is itself, heavily documented. I can take no credit for any of the ideas. My goal is to direct readers interested in the problem to the document itself. It’s a great starting point.
Techno fixes alone won’t solve the problem. With the ability to alter print, speech and video, there are ways around even the tightest technological controls.
Media strategies to help correct the problem include not airing spurious content, identifying sources of dis-information and then publicizing how those that produce content create their stuff (for instance, how bots work).
Create material on how to differentiate between opinion and hard news, as well as critical assessment of statistical and quantitative statements in the media, an understanding of algorithms and artificial intelligence and greater emotional skepticism. There is also a need to educate people on the power of images to manipulate and persuade: doctored images, fabricated videos, misleading visualizations or “memes” (images with text superimposed over top).
Good or bad, other countries are taking steps to regulate irresponsible speech on media, an indicator of how serious leaders in those countries are about the threat. Germany has implemented the Network Enforcement Law, which targets hat speech. But, a BBC World Service survey indicated that in only two of 18 countries, China and the UK, did a majority want their governments to regulate the internet. Leaders in Italy and the European Commission have called for regulation of mal-information. In the Czech Republic, a unit targeting “dis-information campaigns.” Singapore is also considering actions.
Near the end of this 109-page, meticulously documented paper is a summary of recommendations for action by technology companies, national governments, media organizations, civil society, educational institutions and grant-awarding foundations. Even if the rest of the paper is skipped, this five-page summary offers a glimpse of the complexity of what must be undertaken. Also helpful is a listing in an appendix of international fact-checking organizations and a link to a fact-checking database put together by Duke University’s Reporter’s Lab.