Combatting fake news is a hot topic in global stability and governance. Organizations that historically worked on reducing poverty, injustice, and health threats around the world now find themselves facing new challenges brought on by the digital age and “attention economy.”
Targeted disinformation campaigns that can go viral affect human wellbeing on an individual and global scale. They cause distrust in institutions and divisions in society. Based on our experience combating fake news through media literacy and awareness, Dexis sees the following as some of the main challenges and possible solutions to the biggest issues around disinformation:
The creators of disinformation take a kernel of truth and build a false narrative around it. For example, during Pizzagate in the U.S., an armed gunman acted on a false story that had some truth: the owner of the restaurant did support the campaign of the former presidential candidate. That was real—the child trafficking ring was not.
In Eastern Europe and elsewhere, this approach is used quite often and can lead to violent attacks on activists and others. Because people often react to what they read before they think about the motives behind the story, the producers of fake news create content that aims to turn emotional reaction into action.
Emotional exploitation is frequently used during hybrid information wars. Worst case scenarios provided by so-called experts are circulated in social media to amplify current stresses. However, in some cases, fact-finding organizations can determine that these experts’ claims come from false accounts and educate others about it. Yet, instead of relying solely on fact-finding groups, training local representatives, journalists, and students to create and promote accurate content would extend the impact of truth-telling even further.