Infodemic: a call to action to our industry?
We are at a good time for us to reflect on the other pandemic, one of which we hardly talk about and which affects us all equally: that of disinformation. This generates confusion and division at a time when solidarity and collaboration should prevail in order to save lives and overcome the health crisis.
The WHO has defined this other pandemic as an "infodemic", partly in reference to the confusion generated by the large amount of content, data and opinions to which we are exposed, and which affects us in many cases with highly destructive effects. But it also refers to the manipulation that is implicit in the information, supposedly scientific, which is hindering health policies, spreading panic unnecessarily instead of raising awareness among the population.
We know that the universe of information has changed abruptly in the last 25 years since the arrival of the Internet and has accelerated with the irruption of social media. However, in many cases we still think of information as if the information ecosystem had not changed. We, as an industry, know this very well.
The dissemination of false information found the technical facilities to circulate at unexpected rates, generating in turn new terms to analyze it, such as fake news, deep fakes or infoxication. The traditional journalistic brands face several challenges: the loss of credibility, the excess of information and the implementation of artificial intelligence in the newsrooms, not to mention the crisis of their traditional sources of financing, advertisers and subscriptions, increasingly affected by Covid-19 consequences.
How did we come to this scenario? The popularization of the Internet from 1995 onwards broke down the barriers that limited information content: the format and its logistics. This led to the creation of news in volumes that began to be unmanageable for people, in terms of the time required to search for them and the capacity to absorb them. But it also led us to confuse information with entertainment, opinion or commentary.
This universe today allows scientific content, journalistic coverage, false news, manipulated and even the most sophisticated “deep fake” -almost impossible to be detected by people, sponsored content and propaganda to coexist side by side, all of these mimicked in a single concept of information.
The excess of content, the new ways of being or believing oneself to be informed, the loss of credibility together with the uncritical acceptance of what one reads, have put the validation of information as a necessity in the background.
Covid-19 is the first pandemic we are experiencing in the post-truth era, where the story is above the facts and the facts are confused with the opinions about them. In this era, one of the problems generated by the new ways of linking us with information is that the necessary and adequate information to face the virus, in many cases does not reach the citizen in an accurate way.
What can we do as an industry? Can we help checkers, or even media in their process of validation of information? Is this an opportunity for us? Can we help our customers to complete the three basic questions that we have to ask ourselves about any content: who says it, what it says and what it says for? Can we also differentiate the news into the seven categories of fake? Can we identify what can we consider credible news?
Misinformation makes us vulnerable, allows us to be manipulated and makes us sick, but information, when it is correct, empowers us and allows us to make better decisions. I believe we have definitely our space there.
By Maria Laura Garcia - FIBEP President