Facts, lies, hate and choices: how to choose your battles in the war against misinformation – News Block

The many probing questions posed to, and among, panelists at the Editors’ Summit session on “Facts, Lies, Hate and Elections” at the World Media Congress in Taipei last week, highlights the many issues affecting newsrooms around the world.

“What do we do when lies displace truths, in a hyperpartisan world, where politicians promote an alternate reality and ‘alternative truths’? Do we need to think of different approaches that involve the whole of society?”
– Soyoung Kim, Reuters News Editor

The event aimed to find solutions for journalists and newsrooms facing the challenges (and harm) of working in an era of misinformation, oppression and anger, particularly around elections.

Panelists David Walmsleychief editor at Globe and Mail, Canada; emma clarknews editor Afghanistan and Pakistan AFP in Afghanistan; Glenda M. Gloriaco-founder of rapper (Philippines); and Nwabisa Makungueditor of the sowetan in South Africa, it did not disappoint.

“Sure, self-censorship, media ownership, electoral violence, all these problems have been there for a lifetime. The difference now is that disinformation is an easy tool for the tyrant, the corrupt regime, the corrupt politician to use, and to facilitate victory. That’s the differentiator here. Because misinformation contaminates the entire environment, and drowns us. And if we don’t do something about it, we’ll probably die.”– Glenda Gloria, Co-Founder: Rappler

Sharing their election coverage experience in their respective regions, they covered a wide range of topics, including press freedom, misinformation, disinformation, social media, democracy, political reporting, artificial intelligence, civil society, online harassment, security of journalists, Mental Health and Moral Damage.

‘The enemy of the people’: when democracy is put to the test

Moderator kim soyoungNews editor for North Asia, Southeast Asia and Australasia, Reuters, South Korea, was based in Washington DC from 2019 to 2021 and ran the Coverage of the 2020 presidential election in the United States.

“We always knew that it was going to be a painful electoral campaign; that it was going to be ugly,” he recalled. “Trump was the sitting president and he called the media ‘the enemy of the people,’ and he frequently attacked our work as fake news.

“Disinformation in elections is nothing new. But what made this particular situation dangerous and challenging was the fact that someone in the highest office used his intimidate pulpit to spread lies. And of course, as news outlets, constantly fact checking everything he was saying. But unfortunately, his statements gained traction; They created a life of their own on social media.

“What I didn’t anticipate was that it wasn’t an empty threat. And he was actually going to attack the integrity of the United States electoral system and he was going to do everything possible to try to overturn the results.

“Fast-forward three years: Half of Americans believe their electoral system is fraudulent or prone to fraud, and they have no faith in the system. Worse yet, the lies have been contagious globally. we have seen, since Brazil to burmapoliticians using the same playbook to allege fraud or stolen elections, in an effort to stay in power.

“Looking ahead to the upcoming election, Trump is back in the mix for 2024. We are definitely gearing up again. And, like four years ago, we know that we must prepare for misinformation, lies, and again, possible violence as well.

“The challenges continue. What do we do when lies displace truths, in a hyperpartisan world where politicians promote an alternate reality and ‘alternative truths’? Do we need to think of different approaches that involve the whole of society?”

Comply with changing regulations

The very principle of democracy is under threat, Walmsley noted. “I think you have a sign that the natural order is changing. And the ability to put that back in the box, I think is a very difficult thing to do. But one thing that journalists can do between that time period between an election and a vote is to listen and represent the voices that are otherwise only heard during a moment of crisis.

“And I think the reflection is something that forces a change in the way you work and how you represent offices and what geographic representation you give your national audience. And that’s something we’ve certainly had to come to terms with to some degree.”

See also: David Walmsley: ‘If they don’t pay for your work it’s because it has no value’

Debunking Misinformation and Disinformation: Lessons from Major Newsrooms

“Disinformation moves so fast that, in my experience, countering misinformation and misinformation is like fighting a guerrilla war, with enemies coming from all sides, organized and systematic. How do you choose your battles, or do you take on all of them? Have you or your organization established a strategy to deal with misinformation? Are there any steps to counter misinformation?”

This pertinent question from the audience summed up a strong panel discussion with sage advice on how to deal with misinformation in the short or long term.

Emma Clark, AFP Afghanistan: “We have two dedicated digital fact-finding journalists in our newsroom in Islamabad, who monitor trends and choose what to debunk. It’s mostly based on what goes viral the most, but they also need to be candid about what’s easy to debunk and what’s understandable to the audience.

“We could go down rabbit holes for a long, long time trying to disprove the work of a particular politician, where he got his wealth from, or whether or not he faces certain legal challenges. Pakistan’s judiciary is archaic, so it’s quite difficult at times. So we need to be honest about where we spend our time and resources, what can be easily debunked and explained to the audience, as well as what matters and what has an impact.”

David Walmsley, Globe and Mail: “We’re working with a couple of universities and we have our own disinformation team. There has been a lot of foreign interference in the Canadian elections; Russia and China in particular are heavily involved. We found that we don’t have the ability to see the data sets that are required, but if we look at the patterns, we can show the state actors that are involved, and we’ll work on that over the next 18 months leading up to the next election.”

Glenda Gloria, Rappler: “We treat disinformation operationally, because we have a database and an alert system. Of course, because we have limited resources, we don’t deal with all kinds of misinformation. But when it gains traction and we are alerted, we immediately address it, but with images, not text. In addition to fact checking, we also included gutsy smileys, because that’s what has been most effective in debunking lies.

“If you put out a three-paragraph statement, nobody reads it, it won’t go viral. So I think you also apply the kind of form tactics that the other side uses, which is really effective.

Second, we do a lot of workshops on responsible social media use with journalists, journalism students, and non-governmental organizations outside of Metro Manila, because ultimately, you can only do something as a newsroom.

“But when you introduce your reporters to your community, face to face, they put a human face on the byline. It’s easy to hate online because you don’t know the person; you don’t see his body language, or you see them as a human being. But once you expose your reporters in communities like this, face to face, the hate subsides. Aid. Helps build relationships again.

“We return to our communities and introduce journalism as a critical profession in democracy. And we try to do it face to face. It’s hard work, but the long-term game should be worth it.”

See also: Preparing for Crisis X: Can newsrooms and the scientific community beat skeptical audiences?

And Watch: Closing Video of the World News Media Congress 2023

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