Evaluating information on science-related topics: Citizen’s strategies for media consumption in everyday life
Jussara Rowland (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon (ICS-ULisboa), Ana Delicado (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon (ICS-ULisboa) and João Estevens (IPRI-NOVA, Portuguese Institute of International Relations)How do people evaluate sources of information on science-related topics? What strategies do they devise to make sense, contextualize, and assess the information they access on different channels? What sources of scientific information do they tend to distrust the most? What topics are perceived as more prone to the risk of misinformation and disinformation? In this paper, we present the results of a Portuguese consultation with 100 citizens regarding their perceptions of sources and channels of information on four scientific topics: climate change, vaccines, alternative medicines, and genetically modified organisms. We explore how information evaluation has become part of our media consumption, and how citizens perceive themselves as having to take a more active role in the evaluation of the information they access through their media repertoire. We also take into account how Increased digitization has brought new challenges in assessing the reliability of sources, and how citizens often develop very personal strategies of source pluralism, triangulation, and verification to fact check the science-related information they search for and access in their everyday life, especially in the case of “hot topics” like climate change and vaccines. This presentation is based on the information gathered under the project CONCISE Communication role on perception and beliefs of EU Citizens about Science (2019-2021), funded by the European Commission (H2020 SwafS), coordinated by the University of Valencia, and with the participation of partners from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia and Poland.
Keywords: science communication, information evaluation, scientific information, media repertoires
The influence of the level of population education on the perception of the fake news phenomenon in the Romanian media
Maria Livia Stefanescu (Research Institute for Quality of Life, Romanian Academy, Bucharest, Romania)
The purpose of this presentation is to analyse the degree of trust that the Romanians have on the veracity of news and other information they had access through newspapers, new magazines, online social networks and messaging apps, TV, radio or video hosting websites and podcasts. All these issues will be denoted by the trust variable. The current research is based on the concrete answers of the Romanians to the questions in a questionnaire. In this context, 1000 people were interviewed in February 2018. In addition to the previously specified trust variable, we will also operate with other three variables, that are: often (the frequency of news and information that the respondent finds or representing the reality), sure (the degree of safety claimed by the person interviewed in identifying false news) or exist (What problems can cause to Romania and to the democracy in general the existence of false news). We specify that the trust, often, sure and exist variables (in short V variable) are of ordinal type, which requires specific statistical assessment models (Agresti 2010).
We are interested in establishing to what extent the degree of population education (low L, average M and high H) contributes decisively to the spread of false news. In this context a chi-square test of homogeneity was applied to decide whether people with different education could be considered as having similar opinions (null hypothesis H0). If the H0 hypothesis of homogeneity of opinions is rejected for the V variable (trust, often, sure or exist) regardless of the individual edu level of the person it assumes indirectly a certain degree of dependence between edu and V variables. By using the Goodman-Kruskal coefficient GK is established the intensity of the GK(edu, V) association relation between categorical ordinal edu and V variables.
In addition, for any categorical ordinal variable X, we introduce the TRO(X) coefficient to set up the trend of X. We specify that the TRO index is compatible with the classic stochastic relationship between any two random variables. Comparison of TRO(V) values for L, M, H education levels of edu variable quantitatively specify the influence of edu education in the issue of V. Finally, the views of interviewees are analysed about media institutions and actors that could significantly diminish and even stop the spread of false news in the Romanian media.
Keywords: education, fake news, Romania
Meeting spaces for media literacy and citizen empowerment
Alvaro Blanco Morett (Universidad de Málaga) and Alex Iván Arévalo Salinas (Universidad de Extremadura)
The following paper reflects on the need to avoid misinformation and the spread of hoaxes, from the training of new citizens based on a critical reading of the media, which involves face-to-face and digital actions. In this regard, an analysis is made of the need to revalue strategies based on face-to-face intervention, promoting meeting points, as ways of training critical citizens who are aware of their rights and debates. This leads us to a critique of how economic profitability prioritizes the measurement of digital, from the principles of content marketing, through the recording of quantitative data, achieving views and likes, over a qualitative impact, of changing attitudes or the promotion of participation based on reflection and deliberation. This leads us to explore concepts such as digital dietetics or screened life. From this necessary revaluation of the face-to-face, we highlight some meeting spaces such as museums, community radio stations and citizen laboratories. After detailing its main functions and scope, its role in training citizens to deal with the manipulation of speeches is made visible. For this, good practices in the Ibero-American space will be highlighted. As a final part, we open a reflection on the possibilities that the media have to encourage citizen participation, beyond receiving information from the people who denounce these events or opening spaces for comments. This work also propose continue rethinking the figure of the information professional, as well as the way in which we access information, the way in which we consume it.
Keywords: Communication, Citizen Participation, Media Literacy, Democracy, Meeting places, Disinformation
Tackling misinformation in the context of COVID 19: A case study of good practices in the source-journalist relationship in Press Offices when dealing with health issues in Brazil
Sandra Raquew Azevêdo, Carlos Alberto Farias de Azevedo Filho and Luana Suellen Almeida (Universidade Federal da Paraíba)
From 2020 onwards, with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, we started to research the actions of two governmental health institutions, i.e., the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ), a reference institution of public health in Brazil and Paraíba’s State Office of Health (situated in the Northeast of Brazil). The aim of this work was to better comprehend the creation of good strategies of communication related to the fight against misinformation and the dissemination of false information in the context of the health crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic. A netnographic exploration of the FIOCRUZ was carried out between February and July 2020, as well as the mapping of the strategies adopted by the Press Office of the Paraiba’s State Office of Health, highlighting the use of WhatsApp transmission lists as one of the main strategies of relationship with the Press during the pandemic. Both institutions presented significant growth on social network engagement and constant updates of the pandemic-related content on these organizations’ social networks, producing the media agenda-setting based on scientific evidences about COVID-19, by contrast with wide-spread denialist content into Brazilian society. When monitoring the instant distribution of these Public Health Institutions’ exchange of messages via WhatsApp, a new dynamic relationship with the Press was better understood as well as the circulation of information and data which allowed the creation of newsworthiness of COVID-19 in the context of isolation and social distancing. From these Health Institutions point of view, the everyday sources of information for press professionals, it was perceived that this relationship was intensified ensuring greater proximity during the pandemic, representing a joint effort on the fight against misinformation. Taking as a starting point the creation of newsworthiness of COVID-19 before the everyday need of fact-checking and a better understanding of the illness itself and the impacts of the pandemic. Taking Paraíba’s State Office of Health as an example, it defined strategies agreed with the Govern institutional communication, which highly contributed to the fight against false information, as it was constructed a common language for the media, a synchronicity of strategies, and a close relationship with the journalists, which resulted in better interlocution with the society since it responded to the challenges imposed by the health crisis. Both experiences indicate the strengthening of the dialogue in the relationship between source-journalist, which is now intertwined with strategies of technological mediation. This experience requires from the sources and journalists to trace strategies in which the pandemic-related content that is communicated has a didactic, edu-communicative and transmediatic character.
Keywords: COVID-19, Misinformation, Public health
Vaccination and Fake News: What Health and Information Professionals should/could do? Clues from Content Curation
Gilbert Faure (Université Lorraine)
Vaccinations are one of the major performances of Medicine for infectious diseases and beyond. However, since the first attempts, fake news about potential side effects inundated media of all kinds. This “fake news” problem reemerged in the last decades and after focusing on five vaccines and/or disorders it is now on the frontline for two years in the context of Covid-19 pandemic. This topic combining medical history, infectious diseases, immunology and psychology is rarely well taught in medicine faculties and requires information literacy competences for teachers, students and medical doctors. Social networks amplify diffusion of fake news, statements and positions enormously, and the situation is evolving continuously. We have been curating information, using the curation tool Scoop.it, to approach the evolution of the topic, focusing on the following questions: What kind of disinformation is circulating on the web? who are the authors of fake news/statements related to vaccination and where are they located? What has been done and should be done by social networks, national and supranational bodies to limit the impact of fake news on public health?
From information curated, after previous presentations at BOBCTASSS 2020 and AMEE 2021, we will focus on efforts of various actors of health information: individuals, social networks, scientific and medical societies, national and supranational bodies through media and social networks on the internet which are now more concerned and proactive to fact-check information, and will discuss their achievements and failures. Actors were mainly medical scientific societies, laboratories and biotechs developing vaccines with classical and innovative methodologies, national and supranational organizations. Their targets are MDs themselves, health policy makers and obviously patients and laypeople to fight so-called vaccine hesitancy. Medical universities are not yet so much involved in information debunking, but they should, on the long run, inform medical students, health professionals and MDs during their basic training and through CME/CPD on infectious diseases (epidemiology, clinical and biological diagnosis, follow-up…) and vaccines (history and immunological mode of action). Clinical research is also mandatory to understand and explain the new situation in public health as well as human and social sciences research for instance through social listening new approaches in various cultural environments. Digital and health literacy education of laypeople as well as of medical and health professionals is mandatory to help controlling this difficult global health subject. Content curation allows a follow-up and collection of disinformation circulating on the web making it more easily accessible to a network of interested people. The content hub maintained and curated regularly can be used as a resource by researchers, policy makers, medical teachers, media professionals, librarians, and medical students. It might help us/them understand the irrationality of attitudes of anti-vaxxers, and the attitudes of various world populations. It should empower students, media and information professionals and improve their health literacy on this sensitive global topic.
Keywords: Vaccinations, Fake News, Content Curation, Scoop.it, Social networks
Algorithmic Approach to Fact-checking in Program of Journalism Studies
Jerzy Gołuchowski, Grzegorz Filipczyk, Katarzyna Zdanowicz Cyganiak, Agnieszka Filipczyk, Ilona Ptak and Aleksandra Popiel (Uniwersytet Ekonomiczny w Katowicach)
Social media are perceived by internet users as one of the main sources of information. The great popularity of social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, makes them an attractive space not only for sharing information but also for spreading false information, disinforming its recipients. The negative role of fake news in society has been well recognized, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and the period of Russia's war with Ukraine. In both situations, fake news led to collective panic, the polarization of society, and even acts of violence. Nevertheless, trust in platforms, algorithms, and bots active in social media is still significantly high. Solutions to the widespread phenomenon of disinformation are being searched for. One of the remedies is an algorithmic (computational) approach to fact-checking. However, the knowledge about the potential and limitations of creating, disseminating, detecting, and combating disinformation is relatively small. Fact-checking should be an integral part of media education, also conducted at university level in the field of journalism. The scope of knowledge that students should receive in the course of their studies to become conscious media consumers, capable of identifying disinformation, is still the subject of discussion. Undoubtedly, this knowledge refers not only to explaining the nature of disinformation and recognizing fake news in social media, but also to an algorithmic approach to creating, disseminating, detecting, and combating disinformation. The need for a fuller awareness of how bots affect the infospace still seems underestimated. In the article, a proposal for the education of journalism students in the algorithmic approach to the recognition of disinformation is shown. The proposal for the journalism education content was developed as part of the Fact-Checking project led by Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Portugal). The purpose of the discussion in this paper is to point out the difficulty of selecting knowledge and available tools to help students automatically determine the authenticity of sources, images, and videos, as well as user-generated content (UGC) shared through social networks. The algorithmic approach and the way it is presented to students is shown against the shortcomings of the classical approach, based on the work of human specialists and fact-checking organizations that specialize in identifying fake news.
Keywords: fact checking, journalism studies, algorithmic fact checking
Which pedagogical approach to fight against "fake news" and "conspiracy theories"? A look back at the creation of a serious game for media and information literacy
Amandine Kervella, Aurélia Lamy and Céline Matuszak (University of Lille, GERiiCO laboratory)
Between 2016 and 2020, our laboratory participated in a European project to prevent and fight against radicalisation leading to violence. Within this framework, our research team in Information and Communication Sciences approached the general problem through the prism of media and information literacy, in the framework of an action research. This research took place between 2016 and 2020 and mobilised a hybrid methodological apparatus articulating academic state of the art, individual interviews, eight times of collective exchanges (75 teachers, social and cultural animators, etc.), test sessions of the game with young people (45 secondary school students; 120 students). This work led to the design and development of the serious game Newscraft (newscraftseriousgame.com), in collaboration with a video game publisher. Initially, the aim was to create a tool to combat the circulation of and support for "fake news" and "conspiracy theories". These discourses were seen, without any real research evidence at the time, as contributing to radicalization processes leading to violence (Alava et al., 2018). Ultimately Newscraft was structured around another pedagogical objective: to accompany the player in understanding the mechanisms of fabrication of 'news' media discourses. It is this shift that we would like to examine in this paper. Through the analysis of the co-construction process of the Newscraft serious game, we will first show how the consideration of emerging research on the processes of adherence to "conspiracy theories" played in the direction of a reorientation of the project (Le Caroff and Foulot, 2019; Giry, 2017, France, 2016; Gombin, 2013). We will then show how taking into account the experiential knowledge (Dewey, 1968) of education professionals through the creation of a specific methodological device for the co-construction of the serious game (Gardien, 2017) reinforced this new orientation. On the basis of this critical feedback, we will contribute to the general reflection on the educational approaches to the fight against "fake news" and "conspiracy theories" developed in media and information literacy.
Keywords: media and information literacy, serious game, fake news, conspiracy theories
Who checks the checkers? A reflection on the transparency and methodologies of fact-checking projects
Ricardo Morais (University of Beira Interior/LabCom - Communication and Arts / IADE)
According to the latest data released by Duke Reporters’ Lab, there are currently 341 active fact-checking projects, with more than 100 countries where fact-checking initiatives can be found (Stencel & Luther, 2021). Despite this number, the authors of the collection warn that the number of initiatives has slowed down, “although misleading content and political lies have played a growing role in contentious elections and the global response to the coronavirus pandemic” (Stencel & Luther, 2021). Also according to the report, although “half of the current fact-checkers (195 of 341) are affiliated with media organizations, including national news publishers and broadcasters, local news sources and digital-only outlet”, there are also other entities to check facts, such as “non-profit groups, think tanks, nongovernmental organizations and affiliated academic institutions” (Stencel & Luther, 2021). We understand that the verification of facts can be carried out by different entities, but we also know that not all share the same principles or methodologies. For Reporters’ Lab, the reference in terms of fact-checking is given by the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN), a project based at the Poynter Institute, which defines a code of principles that must be followed by the organizations that integrates the network. It is precisely based on these five principles - commitment to nonpartisanship and fairness; to transparency of sources; to transparency of funding and organization; to transparency of methodology; to open and honest corrections - that in this work we seek to verify if, in the Portuguese case, there is a compliance by the two main fact-checking projects: Observador Fact Check and Polígrafo, with these principles. Through this analysis we intend to alert to the importance of reflecting on who verifies the work that is done by fact-checkers. Our hypothesis is that if there is no one to regulate their work and if they are not obliged to be accountable, it is the verification function itself that may be at stake.
Keywords: fact-checking, fact-checkers, organizations, accountability, transparency, methodologies
Fact-checking and debunking on YouTube: building the legitimacy of youtubers in the fight against disinformation
Florian Dauphin (Université de Picardie Jules Verne)
Our paper proposes to analyze a practice developed by individuals on social networks that they call "debunking". The expression comes from the English "to debunk", which means to discredit a person or a group considered as an impostor, to refute an ideological corpus considered false, or to unmask what is perceived as a lie. This practice has become popular in France since 2015, thanks to videographers on YouTube, some of whom are very successful. Among them are "La Tronche en Biais" and "DeBunkers des Etoiles" who have millions of views. They claim to be "skeptics" and make videos to re-establish what they consider to be the truth, in the face of misinformation in the field of public health related to scientific and technical innovations (Covid vaccination 2019, effects of chloroquine, development of 5G and Linky electricity meters, etc.). They can also tackle pseudoscience and conspiracy theories of a political nature (attacks of September 11, 2001 in the USA and November 13, 2015 in France, etc.). Most of them are amateurs who position themselves as guardians of reason. One of them even uses the expression "gate-keeper" of digital social networks and in particular YouTube, which they identify as the enemy of information, while being the channel they themselves use to restore the truth to the general public. This contribution is therefore in line with the theme of the mobilization of non-institutional actors, proposing counter-narratives, with an aim close to popular education to fight against disinformation.
This phenomenon remains little studied, even though these individuals play an important role in the fight against fake news and have become new actors in the popularization of science. Our questioning aims at understanding the way in which the legitimacy of these video artists is built, in their fight against false ideas with their public. The methodology of our investigation is based on the realization of 13 interviews with youtubers and a female youtuber (this environment being essentially male, reproducing the effects of gender on access to science) and an analysis of a corpus of 50 videos and written comments about the videos.
Several results emerge from this investigation. First of all, in the fight against misinformation, the video makers do not draw their legitimacy from their scientific and/or journalistic background, which most of them do not have. The construction of their legitimacy passes by a claim of neutrality, transparency and independence of thought. It is also their hard work in verifying the facts, presented as a priesthood, that they put forward and that the public recognizes. Their credibility also comes from the influence that the videographers have on their audience thanks to a close relationship with their subscribers. One of them explains that he feels like a big brother to his community. They are perceived by their audience as peers with whom they identify. Finally, their influence - credibility - legitimacy comes from the power of their community (number of individuals and ability to mobilize). The more active and numerous their community is, the more weight they have in their words. These results appear to be important when considering the development of strategies to fight misinformation on the Internet.
Keywords: Fact-checking, debunking, YouTube, disinformation, legitimacy
Elections and fact-checking in Portugal: The case of ‘Legislativas’ of 2019 and 2022
João Pedro Baptista (Universidade da Beira Interior) and Pedro Jerónimo (LabCom, Universidade da Beira Interior)
Fact-checking is a recent journalistic movement, whose popularity has grown in recent years due to the misinformation crisis that followed the US elections in 2016. Since the 2000s, this practice has been implemented in the US, assuming itself as “a new democratic institution”. Faced with the chaotic post-truth scenario, journalism and the truth have lost authority. Tolerance for falsehood in political discourse has increased, so fact-checking has acquired a relevant role for society by assuming the impartial search for the truth as its main objective. In 2021, Duke Reporter’s Lab identified 341 active fact-checking projects, which corresponds to 51 more than the previous year and an activity that has spread to 102 countries. Considering that there are still many doubts regarding the selection criteria and the feasibility of the methods used by fact-checking agencies (even in countries where the practice has existed for a longer time), our study analyzes the coverage of the two Portuguese fact-checking agencies in two Government elections: ‘Legislativas’ of 2019 and 2022. We focused analysis on the activity of the ‘Polígrafo’ and ‘Observador’, comparing all the claims verified by the two fact-checking agencies during the period of the respective electoral campaigns. The main objective is to verify how the two fact-checks vary in relation to the selection and evaluation of the political contents checked. More specifically, we consider the political-partisan orientation of the content and intend to identify the most verified topics, parties and political figures and possible correlations between the two fact-checkers. Knowing that our analysis is still ongoing, preliminary findings reveal that the number of fact-checks was much higher during the 2022 election campaign compared to the 2019 elections. This may indicate, on the one hand, that online disinformation may be being used more as a political weapon than before; but, on the other hand, these data may also suggest that fact-checking agencies have become more active and relevant. Between 2019 and 2022, there is undoubtedly greater scrutiny of the statements of the leader of the populist radical right, André Ventura. This result would be expected, due to André Ventura's high popularity. However, it may also suggest that, in 2019, the populist radical right, which elected a deputy for the first time in history, may have benefited from less scrutiny from fact-checkers. In 2022, the results seem to indicate a fact-checking very focused on electoral debates and on verifying the statements of politicians. Fact-checkers focused a lot on polemics and controversial statements and paid less attention to the misinformation circulating on social media. The attention of fact-checkers in 2022 was focused on television and electoral debates.
Keywords: Fact-checking, Elections, Disinformation
What we should know to design a debunking course: Assessing logical thinking and perceptions about the information crisis among college students
Ioli Campos (Universidade Nova de Lisboa (ICNova) & Universidade Católica Portuguesa)
Various reasons have been pointed out for the current information crisis (Wardle, Derakhshan, Burns, & Dias, 2017): the information overload (Moeller, 1999), the post-factuality and cultural relativism (McNair, 2018), the collapse of trust (d'Ancona, 2017), the filter bubbles and datafication of our constructed view of the world (Couldry & Hepp, 2018), apart from the political and economical causes. Various fact-checking initiatives have also emerged to tackle the misinformation problem: from online games to educative projects about verification and professional journalism websites dedicated to fact-checking. However, despite being an important tool to fight misinformation, the research tells us that fact-checking alone is far from enough (Ireton & Posetti, 2018). There is a whole body of literature pointing to the psychological dispositions that play a role in the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation, such as theories of cognitive bias, motivated reasoning and availability heuristic. The concept of media literacy is often associated with critical thinking. However, many media literacy measures do not put as much as an emphasis on logical reasoning, as they put on self-perceived media literacy, perceptions of the value of media literacy (Vraga, Tully, Kotcher, Smithson, & Broeckelman-Post, 2015), knowledge about audiences and reception, message construction, and production (Maksl, Ashley, & Craft, 2015; Primack et al., 2006).
Likewise, most surveys done among the Portuguese University students’ population about media literacy focused mostly on media use and civic life (Lopes, 2015), knowledge about the median and message construction (João & Menezes, 2008), and less on cognitive-critical reasoning (Lopes, Pereira, Moura, & Carvalho, 2015). In the other hand, in Portugal, as in many other parts of the globe, the focus of journalism University education is more often on production, media sociology and theories of communication, and less often on media psychology, according to the curricula available on various university websites. Production can easily be learned through traineeships; however, once one enters the journalism job market, one has less time and perhaps less motivation to study and think about the media effects and psychological processes behind information acquisition. This paper aims at examining the use of logical and probability thinking by university students of communication in relationship to their awareness about the information crisis. This study is guided by the need to provide a research-based instructional strategy for the development of a new course on debunking. It does so by surveying a group of 37 Portuguese university students about their use of logic and critical thinking, through a validated scale (Pinker, 2021). Additionally it assesses the student’s attitudes and perceptions about the problem of fake news through a measure used in a survey already conducted in 27 countries, but not in Portugal (IPSOS, 2018). The results support the argument that to fight the ongoing information crisis, it may also be essential to increase the teaching of critical thinking. This exploratory study contributes to filling a gap in the literature about the use of logical reasoning among communication students and to the wider debate about how we can teach them about debunking.
Keywords: information crisis, fake news, media literacy, debunking, logic and critical thinking
The Rhetoric of Expertise and the Fact-Checking Phenomenon
Will Coles (Royal Holloway, University of London)
The rise of fact-checking initiatives over the last twenty years has been called an ‘explosion’ (Spivak 2010), although many of the practices that we associate with fact checking can be traced back to the 1980s (Dobbs 2012). But much of the academic debate on this media phenomenon has generally focussed on the value of fact-checking initiatives and whether one can truly ‘check’ facts (Uscinski & Butler 2013; Amazeen 2015; Uscinski 2015), and it has only been very recently scholars have started to look at fact-checking from the perspective of Rhetoric and Communication Studies (Bengtsson 2019; Plug & Wagemans 2020).
In their well-known report for the Reuters Institute, Graves & Cherubini give ‘experts’ as one of three potential identities adopted by fact-checking initiatives (Graves & Cherubini 2016, 17-8). The identity through which initiatives represent and conduct themselves is - by Aristotle’s reckoning - their ‘character’ or ethos. According to Aristotle, it is hugely important that interlocuters project wisdom, virtue and good-intentions as part of their ethos (Rhetoric 1378a6-9). In the world of ‘post-truth’ politics and increasingly polarised debate, the notion of ethos is especially important since Aristotle also states that it can play a decisive role when a debate is unpredictable or when opinions are sharply divided (Rhetoric 1356a8). However, studies have shown that fact-checking often fails to shift public opinion when they have ‘fact-checked’ misleading arguments (Nyhan & Reifler 2010), and I will argue this is partially down to the (mis)use of ethos.
Fact-checking is here to stay, so I propose that the academic debate should now focus on how this phenomenon can improve its practice. This presentation will examine fact-checking initiatives through one important aspect of rhetorical theory that has not been done before – that of arguments from character (ethos). While scholars have already touched on the role of expert opinion within contemporary debate (Walton 1997; Hartelius 2010; Pietrucci 2019), they have not applied it to the context of fact-checking initiatives. I will propose a new model for the use of experts within fact-checking initiatives. I will argue that experts should be seen as interlocuters within the wider debate and not separated from it, since the ethos of the ‘independent expert’ is not as persuasive as it once was (Ceccarelli 2011). I will argue that to allow fact-checking initiatives to achieve their goals, a rethink is needed in terms of their presentation of expert opinion. I propose that fact-checkers can do this by using experts to foster quality arguments from both sides on disputed issues, therefore facilitating better public deliberation.
Keywords: argumentation, expertise, ethos, rhetoric, communication, logic, deliberation, citizenship, Aristotle
The failure of hard law as an efficient strategy in fighting massive and digital disinformation: the example of the flop of the French “fake news interim order”
Sylvie Pierre-Maurice (STRASBOURG UNIVERSITY)
Filing a judicial action, even in emergency, to stop disinformation may be largely illusory. Created in 2018, this new interlocutory proceeding was presented as the nuclear weapon against electoral disinformation. Judges are now entitled to take proportionate and necessary measures against internet service providers and hosts to stop the spread of desinformation. Interesting and original on the paper, it proved to be limited (due to its narrow scope), unattractive and even counter productive.
Keywords: electoral disinformation, judicial action, interim order, flop, French anti fake news law
Does your future mirror that greatness? Fake news in Brazilian democracy in the light of a Veblenian interpretation
Bruna Costa (University of Technology of Compiègne)
The work intends to connect institutional economics with the Brazilian reality at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Understanding how fake news corroborates myths reshapes and also contributes to the destruction of the institutional pattern. Revisiting individual actions integrate a collective action that in the development of the process are rejected, sanctioned and/or validated, and the search is to emerge how these events impact and can be interpreted in the institutional framework. The objective is to build an understanding of the procedural rather than the final form. The methodology is historical descriptive and interpretative, after all, the current Brazil is experiencing moments of new patterns of conduct that takes a national form and defines a pattern of politics and an economic policy that justifies the destruction, that is, a trajectory of institutional changes of great proportions. In the development of this research, bridges to the future will not be created, but present connections of Veblenian studies with what is understood of nation, as collective, plural and of the subject. Furthermore, to discuss how patterns and polarizations are also projects of nation with the guiding thread of Veblen's concepts in the institutionalist reading, marked not by a descending analysis, but emerging from the behavior patterns of individuals. The title is the first part of the Brazilian national anthem that is overflowing with hope, but which today is collapsing and so the question, does the future mirror this greatness? Considering the present, and a discussion that is also intertwined with the past and that will outline an overview of Brazilian democracy.
Keywords: Brazil, Institucionalism, Democracy, Fake News
From feudalism to post-colonialism: witch-hunting, disinformation and post-truth on trafficking in women
Sandra de Souza Machado (Correio Braziliense Online News/Blog da Igualdade)
According to the United Nations (UN), the concept of trafficking in persons is the displacement of victims for purposes such as work in conditions analogous to slavery. Currently, trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation (slavery) – in order to supply sex and pornography markets – is the fastest growing criminal activity roughly across 170 countries. In this 21st century, human trafficking has become a crime intertwined to weapons and drug trafficking cartels, in terms of both logistics and income from transactions by gangs (mafias) of exploiters.
The Oxford dictionary defines post-truth as “circumstances in which objective facts influence public opinion less than references to emotions and personal beliefs”. This term was elected the “international word” in 2016, and in recent years the expressions fake news and post-truth have flooded mass media. Such phenomena of misleading miscommunication are also connected to the fact that women and girls account for an annual average of 80% of the sex trafficking victims, through the years. They have been secularly marked by poor social misrepresentations and gender stereotypes, having often been considered as transgressors as their enticers. Thus, within the imaginary of patriarchal societies, they would endure and even deserve suffering various situations of (extreme) violence they are forced into living. Even death. In this sense, the contemporary globalized world contemplates the post-colonial and neoliberal version of feudal, mercantile and capitalist systems’ witch hunting. The persecution, imprisonment and murder of women – from all ages and ethnicities, religious backgrounds, social class and sexual orientation, as well as the physically or mentally impaired – are millenary and still occur nowadays through a sort of consent from the masses and even that of state authorities in a number of nations, as will be reviewed. In countries like Brazil and Mexico, which are considered origin, transit and destination for human trafficking, women and children are victims of both domestic trafficking for sexual exploitation within their regions and also to “supply” transnational markets. During the last decade, Brazilian women have been trafficked especially to Western Europe and China, according to data from the Igarapé Institute – EVA (Evidence on Violence and Alternatives for Women and Girls). Most of them belong to more vulnerable ethnic and social groups, such as those of African descent and indigenous peoples. This research will be based on data analysis, discursive and methodological reflections from the perspective of feminist and gender studies within the fields of Communication and Education. There is urgent need for media literacy in order to engender citizenship sensitized in the fight against trafficking in women, questioning gender violence enhanced by misinformation, fake news, post-truth and malicious intentions. Media co-education and collective awareness work as strategies for action in the fight against trafficking in women, which reaches alarming rates in the 21st century, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keywords: Media, Education, Post-truth, Disinformation, Trafficking, Women
Right-wing populist disinformation: 2022 elections in Portugal
Ana Filipa Joaquim (FCSH/NOVA University)
The phenomenon of the rise of populism in Europe in the XXI century is a much-discussed topic in academia. Populism is not limited to this century, as several documents refer to it as a political movement that was strongly present in Europe at the end of the XX century. With an ambiguous and hardly consensual definition, from conceptualization to characterization, populism finds in its ideological genesis a rival and distant dichotomy between the pure people and the corrupt elites. The main thrust of this political ideology is the emotional speech of its leaders and the mass movement that follows them. The populist parties and leaders, labelled as opportunists and amateurs, have found in social networks a privileged communication tool, free of effective laws. Due to the characteristics of the interconnectedness of social networks, today's society is experiencing a parallel phenomenon of disinformation. The social discrediting of government officials and perceptions of fear and terror provides the breeding ground for a new era known as "post-truth." Social media has become increasingly important in the political arena as politicians have found a way to communicate with their audiences without intermediaries. However, it is important to point out that free speech in virtual communities has its limits, but there is no fact-checking for disinformation in real-time. Populist leaders in particular tend to take advantage of this lack of regulation by spreading false messages, mainly using misinformation.In fact, there are several types of fake news. The most common in populist political statements is misinformation, a way of manipulating the truth by highlighting or inventing facts that are somewhat closer to the truth. By 2019, several authors had published articles on Portugal's immunity to the rise of right-wing populism. However, in the 2021 presidential elections, a right-wing populist party (founded in 2019 and calling itself CHEGA) records a meteoric rise in the favor of Portuguese voters and manages to place itself third on the electoral list. This paper proposes a project to answer the following question: Was the use of disinformation as a political strategy of right-wing populism in Portugal during the 2022 election campaign a privileged tool of political marketing? The article intends to discuss the use of disinformation as a political strategy to generate empathy and manipulate people's perceptions in order to obtain votes on election day, by analyzing several electoral debates and campaign speeches of CHEGA party during the political campaign for the 2022 general elections in Portugal.
Keywords: Populism, Populism in Portugal, Disinformation, Fake News, Far Right, Marketing
Diagnostic processes in fake news perception
Jean-Marc Meunier (université Paris 8)
Faced with the proliferation of fake news, the development of informational skills is increasingly urgent. Inspired by the theoretical framework of cognitive ergonomics (Rabardel & Beguin, 2005), we propose to consider epistemic vigilance processes as a diagnostic process. This process competes with activity control for access to cognitive resources in working memory. If there is sufficient time and cognitive resources available, these two processes operate in parallel, otherwise activity control takes priority, unless the diagnosis is critical for the continuation of the activity (Hoc & Amalberti, 1995), 1995). This explains why an individual may be satisfied with a minimal understanding of the situation if it allows him to continue his activity or focus more on the relevance and veracity of the information. If the control of the activity fully mobilises cognitive resources, the diagnosis may be delayed or even omitted. Finally, diagnosis can be anticipated when considering possible problems. Self-censorship on social networks and the modalisation of messages to emphasise the playful or ironic nature of the information are part of anticipatory diagnosis. Depending on the comprehension requirement, the diagnostic processes unfold at different levels (Meunier, 2021).
- Automatisms, triggered by data, can be inhibited when a critical event disrupts them. At this level, we find the mechanisms of epistemic vigilance, particularly emotional vigilance, and cognitive biases whose role in the evaluation of information is well attested (Kim & Dennis, 2019; Pennycook et al., 2018) Schemes can be seen as rules instantiated in an activity. These schemas correspond to the usual ways of using digital devices for information verification (Horning, 2017); but also to the ways of processing information, i.e. informational habitus (Vivion, 2019). If the demand for understanding increases, the individual must reason about an explicit representation. Pennycook & Rand (2019) report results accrediting the role of this type of reasoning for information evaluation, but some studies report contradictory results (Bago et al., 2020). The last level is the interpretation of the discourse context, the attribution of intentions to the speaker but especially the anticipation of the consequences or the reaction of others. Such anticipation is at the origin of interpersonal regulation and would explain, other than through biases, the adherence to the general opinion of a social group (Colliander, 2019; Jan et al., 2016).
Automatisms are difficult to educate and can even be counterproductive in case of repeated exposure to fake news (Effron & Raj, 2020). Explicit reasoning is cognitively costly and not always easy to initiate, but possible through teaching (Beaulac & Robert, 2011). Our approach (Desfriches Doria & Meunier, 2021) consists in privileging the schema level by using an artificial intelligence allowing for an "argumentative dialogue". Subjects are repeatedly exposed to plausible but false statements and learn not only to detect them, but also to counter-argue in order to give priority to the diagnostic process.
Keywords: fake news, critical thinking, Diagnosis processes, scheme
From the infodemic to the info war: investigating narrative evolution online
Maria Giovanna Sessa (EU DisinfoLab) and Tom Willaert (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
Recent crises have foregrounded the highly dynamic nature of online disinformation. As world-changing events such as the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine follow each other at a rapid pace, deceptive information and harmful narratives seem to effortlessly adapt to these changing contexts. In this paper, we take the apparently instantaneous shift that many conspiratorial communities have undergone from embracing Covid-19 hoaxes to propagating disinformation related to the war in Ukraine as a starting point for a deeper investigation into the dynamics that underpin the evolution of online narratives.
Taking a quali-quantitative approach, the first part of our study offers a comparative analysis of coronavirus- and Ukraine-related narratives across countries and platforms. For this purpose, we use data gathered by networks of fact-checkers, i.e. the IFCN CoronaVirusFacts Alliance Database for Covid-19 disinformation; #UkraineFacts and the EDMO dedicated page for the ongoing conflict. In this regard, akin narratives, trends, and strategies emerge: from raising alarm over the virus/military escalation to triggering emotional reactions towards the victims of the pandemic/war. Moreover, conspiracy theories on the alleged man-made nature of the virus have now evolved to claim the existence of U.S. biolabs in Ukraine. In the second part of our paper, we build on the knowledge acquired from the cross-country and cross-platform comparative analysis to conduct an in-depth case study on Telegram-originated disinformation circulating in Dutchophone Telegram channels pertaining to Belgium and The Netherlands. Our case study operationalizes methods from natural language processing and corpus-based discourse analysis (Gabrielatos 2018) to map the evolving discourse in a dataset of 220 far-right and conspiratorial Telegram channels, collected within the framework of the EDMO Belux task force (see Peeters and Willaert 2022). Mapping discourse on these Telegram channels back from the beginning of the pandemic to present days – with special attention to OCR’ed texts from images shared – our ‘big data’ investigation shows that numerous anti-vax and denialist channels have indeed been transformed into outlets that talk mainly about the information war. This confirms that Covid-19 disinformation and pro-Russian disinformation not only appeal to the same sentiments and narratives, but also circulate within the same communities. A bottom-up analysis of the ‘key’ terms that differentiate weekly collections of posts furthermore allows us to empirically identify which novel items enter the debate over time, but also which concepts, sentiments or other terms remain a constant throughout. As such, our paper aims to make a data-driven and nuanced contribution to the ongoing study and monitoring of online narratives.
Keywords: Disinformation, Pandemic, Infowar, Telegram scraping, Language processing, Discourse analysis
Empowering higher education librarians: strategies and actions of an information literacy project against disinformation
Tatiana Sanches (UIDEF, Instituto de Educação, Universidade de Lisboa), Carlos Lopes (APPsy-CI, ISPA) and Maria Luz Antunes (Escola Superior de Tecnologia da Saúde de Lisboa (ESTeSL))
In a digital culture where information is constantly swarming, there is an increasing need to train young students to distinguish what is true from what may be fallacies, mistakes, and misinformation. In this sense, librarians can be important training agents, as they work closely with these audiences. This study presents an ongoing project called Information Literacy and Critical Thinking to Fight Disinformation among Youth. Based on the good use of information, it addresses to meet the needs of young people, throughout academic librarians – who daily support thousands of students, professors, researchers, as well the surrounding community – namely in the pursuit of their academic and scientific work, but also lifelong learning and daily life problems resolution. The aim is to promote knowledge, training strategies, and pedagogical practices, regarding the use of Information Literacy (IL) in the fight against disinformation among students. This is intended to mirror a spectrum of skills, practices, and mental habits that broaden and deepen learning through engagement with the information ecosystem. Furthermore, it intends to promote educational and cultural linkages between the United States and Portugal by knowing, applying, and disseminating international reference documents, such as the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (Association for College and Research Libraries – ACRL). Also, it is proposed to develop in the young audience academic skills in the use and choice of information and the reinforcement of critical thinking. Through librarians' training, a wide national reach is expected, promoting events, training skills, and decentralized awareness actions, where it is intended to disseminate knowledge on the subject in the different regions of Portugal. Aim of the study: A proposal for training actions targeted at academic librarians is presented, given the gap offered in this area in Portugal. Methods: Educational design research was used to develop a training program for academic librarians, based on a literature review. A proposal for integrated actions and materials was developed, based on the international ACRL framework. Results: Actions among librarians were structured in content regarding the use of IL in the fight against disinformation among students. The subjects are adaptable to the needs of teaching and dissemination, ensuring the training of academic librarians to promote knowledge, training strategies, and pedagogical practices. Conclusions: The proposed initiative aims to reinforce the importance of building the capacity and best practices training of stakeholders within IL.
Keywords: Higher Education, Librarians, Information Literacy, Disinformation
Practical and Technological Challenges for the Online Information
Laeed Zaghlami (Algiers University)
The topic is to question whether the official decrees by the Algerian authorities on Online Information are sufficient to protect rights and freedoms in electronic publishing. How effective, credible and practical is this decree? Will the legal framework governing online information allow this activity to be regulated and to put an end to the chaos that has prevailed so far? Can online information effectively contribute to the collective effort to democratize and moralize public life? Thus, the regulatory text established the rules of the form for advertising related to the creation of an electronic newspaper or audiovisual services on the Internet. It also specified the modalities of conducting information activity via the Internet, whose physical and logical hosting is located exclusively in Algeria in the field of DZ. This condition defines that resource; The equipment, software, manpower, creativity and exploitation necessary to host a website available in Algeria, are openly seen as a source of obstruction, control and even censorship. Although the issuance of the first regulatory text for the electronic press in Algeria has enabled many websites to settle their situations and carry out their activities legally, which put an end to the confusion that has printed this type of media for more than 8 years of legal vacuum. After highlighting the "text and spirit" of the decree, I will examine its implementation and applicability. How will it deal with the political, ethical and technological challenges it faces on the ground? More importantly, what are the attitudes of social media users? Bloggers, Face Bookers, YouTubers etc.? The nature of these challenges will be detailed in a practical context.
Keywords: Online Information, Algeria, Implementation, Challenges, Ethics
Folks are fact-checkers too! A discourse analysis of the quasi-journalistic practices of social media users engaging with mis-/disinformation
Victor Wiard (USL-B), Geoffroy Patriarche (USL-B), Marie Dufrasne (USL-B)
While the pandemic has exacerbated mis-/disinformation processes, a diversity of actors — including news organisations, press agencies, governments, technology companies, NGO’s, and other civil society members — have developed fact-checking initiatives to debunk “fake news”. So far, the research on the impact of fact-checking has produced mixed results: while certain studies show that fact-checking contributes to reducing belief in mis-/disinformation, others suggest that fact-checking works best for specific profiles, i.e. people with high cognitive skills, and can even backfire and increase people’s misconceptions (Tandoc, 2019). This paper aims to contribute to the research on fact-checking by taking on an audience perspective (Wagner & Boczkowksi, 2019) on news verification and/or correction. We do so (1) by focusing on how social media users make sense of fact-checking as texts (i.e. so-called “fact-checks”) and as practices (i.e. ways of verifying and evaluating mis-/disinformation); (2) by addressing how social media users make sense of fact-checking as a professional activity carried out by identifiable groups of media workers as well as a more personal activity carried out in the day-to-day use of social media; and (3) by moving beyond the usual models of news that imply a rational cognitive processing of information to address the affective, imaginative and folkloristic aspects of mis-/disinformation (Cabañes, 2020; Frank, 2015). Theoretically, we use the framework of “folk theory”, which has been used to study how individuals conceptualise the evolutions of journalism (Nielsen, 2016) and algorithmic feeds of social media (Ytre-Arne & Moe, 2021). Methodologically, we draw from a discourse analysis of 15 semi-directive interviews with individuals across the political and ideological spectrum who engage regularly and in various ways with demonstrably false information on social media. This sample includes profiles ranging from conspirationist social media users to “citizens” practising fact-checking and media education. The interviews aim at creating an environment where informants could voice their theories of fact-checking and reflect upon their quasi-journalistic practices such as crossing sources, information verification, methodical scepticism, and so on. We also present them with actual false information as well as fact-checks to enrich the conversation and address concrete texts and practices. Altogether, this research aims to map the folk theories through which social media users make sense of fact-checking and negotiate boundaries between professional and personal forms of verification and/or correction of mis-/disinformation.
Keywords: Fake news, Fact-checking, Audiences, Verification, Belgium