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Special Report

Alternate truths, conspiracy theories and deceptive information are commonplace in the information wild west. (Michael Joiner, 360info) : Michael Joiner, 360info Alternate truths, conspiracy theories and deceptive information are commonplace in the information wild west. (Michael Joiner, 360info) : Michael Joiner, 360info

The spread of false information online continues to worsen. We’re examining the extent of the problem, and looking at those developing solutions to fight it.

Rampant misinformation is causing noticeable harm and at times is killing people though undermining COVID-related public health advice, promoting myths about the effects of vaccines, and trumpeting radical conspiracy theories.

And it’s not just misinformation. Disinformation (information created with the intent of causing harm) and mal-information (information used to inflict harm on a person, social group, organisation or country) are running rampant.

In this new media landscape, the winners are those best able to capture the audience’s attention — rewarding often outrageous content designed to drive the all-important clicks and eyeballs that make up a monetisable audience.

Underpinning and facilitating all this is the secretive world of algorithms — automated content filtering that recommends or prioritises content for users based on learned behaviours and past reading preferences. Those filters shape what information and advertising we are shown – and not-shown — yet very little is known about the inner workings of the world’s most powerful recommendation engines.

The sophistication and spread of misinformation has developed too quickly for legislation to keep up. But the fightback is well underway with a range of initiatives to wrestle back control over the information space — and make it safer.

It is a battle being fought on many fronts from education to legislation, advertising revenues to cybersecurity. Here’s how the information wild west is being addressed — and tamed.

REALITY CHECK

48 percent of the 11,178 U.S. adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2021 received their news through social media.

An estimated US$235 million is paid annually to disinformation websites by companies in the advertising industry.

In the first three months of the pandemic alone, COVID-19 misinformation has been attributed as a catalyst for at least 800 deaths worldwide.

BIG IDEAS

Quote attributable to Daniel J. Rogers, New York University

“The biggest global companies are those who provide the machinery to capture and monetise audience attention at scale. Today’s internet is powered by businesses that capture and profit from “clicks and eyeballs.”

Quotes attributable to Tanya Notley, Western Sydney University

“Misinformation is not going away and facing this challenge is complicated. Developing the media literacy of both children and adults is one way to push back against the problem, and build a sustainable future for a global information and media ecosystem.”

“A fully media literate citizen will be aware of the many ways they can use media to participate in society. They will know how media are created, funded, regulated, and distributed and they will understand their rights and responsibilities in relation to data and privacy.”

PERSPECTIVES

Cracking the code to cut back misinformation
Anya Schiffrin, Columbia University
Balancing freedom of expression with targeting misinformation is an ongoing challenge, and there’s a variety of approaches taken thus far.

Ubiquitous and mysterious, algorithms are ruling our lives
Daniel Angus, Queensland University of Technology Algorithms hugely impact our consumption of news, media and much more but there is very little known about how they do that and how they influence what we read.

Journalists step in where platforms have no answers
Eleonora Maria Mazzoli, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Google and Facebook are hoping to improve their news algorithms to provide a more balanced view. Media industry initiatives could have the solution they need.

Indonesia’s misinformation program undermines more than it teaches
Ika Idris, Monash University
Indonesia’s government has funded a thorough media literacy program. But rather than stopping misinformation, it serve to undermine independent thought.

Defunding the disinformation money machine
Daniel J. Rogers, New York University Disinformation is a profitable business, and one of the most effective ways to slow its spread to take away the advertising money unwittingly funding it.

Misinformation won’t go away, but media literacy can help fight it
Tanya Notley, Western Sydney University Misinformation won’t disappear, but teaching the community to spot it can strip the falsehoods of their power.

India’s tangled web of misinformation lies
Sukumar Muralidharan, O.P. Jindal Global University
A mysterious app, a viral hoax and political rivals engaging in misinformation mudslinging — India is the grips of a fake news epidemic.

Gates, Fauci and the NWO: inside Australia’s far-right silos
Mario Peucker, Victoria University
Misinformation has found a home with conspiracy theorists, some exploiting political divisions and others convinced of its truth.

Originally published under
Creative Commons by 360info™.

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Authors
Anya Schiffrin, Columbia University Daniel Angus, Queensland University of Technology Eleonora Maria Mazzoli, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) Ika Idris, Monash University Daniel J. Rogers, New York University Tanya Notley, Western Sydney University Sukumar Muralidharan, O.P. Jindal Global University Mario Peucker, Victoria University
Editor
Reece Hooker, Andrew Jaspan, Sara Phillips, 360info
Monash University has established and is proud to host the global headquarters for 360info. Monash University is also the host of the Asia-Pacific Hub.
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