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What’s the best way to combat disinformation?

How can European citizens help fight disinformation? Disinformation (i.e. deliberately deceptive information) and misinformation (i.e. unintentionally false information) threaten social cohesion and increase polarisation and extremism. Citizens feel a sense of exclusion from decision-making processes, look for easy solutions to complex problems and express their frustrations both online and offline (sometimes – such as during the 2021 Capitol riot – in ways that put the functioning of healthy democracies at risk).

In order to explore some solutions to the problem of disinformation, Debating Europe launched a series of focus groups to explore people’s attitudes towards disinformation as a threat to democracy.

Want to learn more about some of the ways to counter disinformation and misinformation? Check out our infographic below:

What do our readers think? We picked five comments from our recent post on disinformation and “post-truth”. First up, we had a comment from Tom asking:

? “Who decides what is disinformation?”

Second, we had a comment from Yonglin, pointing out that some disinformation is produced by state actors, such as Russia. He says:

? “People need to learn to recognize [propaganda] when they see it.”

Next up, Meg is very critical of social media platforms for failing to tackle false information. She says:

? “Social media outlets COULD have done the responsible, honorable thing in the first place by policing these lying, propaganda-spreading, conspiracy mongers from the very start instead of waiting until [they] nearly overthrew the American government.”

Next, a comment came in from Jim saying:

? “A major problem is the automatic thinking that mainstream media are the ‘bad guys’ and lie, therefore independent media must be the ‘good guys’ and tell the truth. Yet not enough people are reading things critically and asking themselves: who is publishing this? Who are the sources? Has this been reported by any other journalists? What is the outlook of the news source and what are they hoping to gain by providing me with this information?”

Finally, Jeremy thinks media pluralism is a big problem. He says:

? “80% of the UK press is owned by 5 multi-billionaires who don’t pay tax.

The specific figures Jeremy quotes are difficult to verify, though experts have expressed concern about media pluralism, both in the UK and across the EU. Is a lack of media pluralism a problem?

To get a response for our readers, we put all five of the above comments to two experts:

Peter Stano, Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, European External Action Service

Rose Jackson, Director of Democracy & Tech Initiative, Digital Forensic Research Lab, Atlantic Council

See the video at the top of this post for their responses.

What’s the best way to combat disinformation? Who decides what is disinformation? Are social media platforms to blame for letting disinformation spread? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Image by Freepik

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