Impact: Countering Disinformation

Impact: Countering Disinformation

Internews’ work counters disinformation on multiple fronts to make sure that people get the accurate information they need to make good decisions.

The Problem

Information – who controls it, who can trust it, and who might be manipulating it – plays a vital role in our political and social spheres. Disinformation can undermine democracies, affect people’s health and economic decisions, and wreak havoc in humanitarian crises. The Internet has amplified and increased the speed at which misinformation and disinformation travels. According to a study published by Science magazine, false information spread significantly “farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about other topics like science and natural disasters.” One source of the problem is the loss of local media outlets, the media that citizens trust the most.

The Solution

Internews works to provide the tools journalists and media outlets need to perform their role as watchdogs and to provide accurate information. This happens on many fronts: from training professionals how to use fact-checking tools and supporting fact-checking organizations, to developing rumor-tracking toolkits, to providing solid investigative journalism skills in areas such as the environment, health, elections, and peace and conflict. Internews also supports the consumers of news and information by developing media and information literacy programs, so individuals can better make their own determinations about what is true and what is false. Most importantly, to combat misinformation, we work to strengthen local media, helping evidence-based, thoughtful reporting compete with disinformation.

Approximately 64% of Americans say that disinformation and misinformation is a major problem in the US, close to terrorism (66%), gun violence (63%), and the quality of education (62%).

There’s no Single Solution – Information Superheroes Fight Disinformation in Many Ways

Infographic showing ways to fight misinformation

1. Invest in Trusted Local Media

Jeanne Bourgault, President of Internews, was interviewed on Maine Calling about misinformation and disinformation:

“…[tech] platforms have an accountability issue – the governments can help hold them accountable, and they can hold themselves accountable. People can hold them accountable. Training in critical thinking at the school level and at many different levels. Starving the fake news – people aren't doing it just for political reasons, but they're doing it to make money, and we can starve those trolls. And the most important one is – invest in real news, invest in real trusted news. That's the most critical element to solve this problem.” — Jeanne Bourgault, Internews President & CEO

Read the written transcript

A woman speaks into a mic while others watchCitizens in the Democratic Republic of Congo Rely on Trusted Local Community Members for Information about Ebola

Kahindo Mwamini testified at a public debate, organized by Internews in Butembo, DRC, about how she was able to survive Ebola by being treated at the Ebola Treatment Center (ETC). Community members had the misconception that one can never come out of the ETC alive. Read the full story.

2. Rumour Tracking 

Birds fly over a row of tentsInternews developed rumor tracking methodology as a way to address misinformation during humanitarian crises in numerous countries and contexts, reaching hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries. See our rumor tracking methodology toolkit, which is part of Internews' Learning Collection and includes three parts: Context, Case Studies, and a How To Guide: Managing Misinformation in a Humanitarian Context.


3. Investigative & Data-Driven Journalism

A Reporter in Tanzania Uncovers an Embezzling Scheme

A woman interviews a man standing on the street

After participating in an Internews workshop, journalist Herieth Rebman used her newly-learned investigative skills to uncover parking agents engaging in fraud. Herieth admits that before the training, she was reluctant to cover negative stories involving government officials and politicians for fear of being “dealt with” or losing a chance to be invited to press conferences. Herieth’s confidence in tackling the story also encouraged her fellow journalists; and she feels her radio station has earned greater respect from the community. 

GeoJournalism Platform Helps Media Better Cover Fires in the Amazon

A satellite image of fires in the AmazonWhile Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro was using disinformation to fend off criticism over the Amazon fires, InfoAmazonia, a partner of Internews' Earth Journalism Network (EJN) was keeping an up-to-date map of fire spots that helps illustrate the true extent of the problem and allows for richer reporting on it. 

Reporter Gustavo Faleiros produced a report showing through detailed maps and infographics just how extensive the burning how been – and how connected fires are to deforestation. Learn more

See also:

4. Media Literacy

Rural Citizens in Moldova Learn How to Identify Misinformation while They’re Commuting

A man looks at a poster on the back of a seatMoldova has been dealing with an avalanche of “fake news.” In February, before the parliamentary elections, Facebook removed 168 accounts, 28 pages, and eight Instagram accounts from its platforms after it was discovered they were targeting people in Moldova with misinformation and disinformation. Coming at the issue from another angle, in March, Internews launched a six-month media literacy campaign targeted at under-informed rural communities and aimed at arming citizens to identify truth in the media. The campaign provides on-the-go media literacy information to commuters and other people in transit by placing media literacy infographic posters on minibuses throughout the country. 

See also:

5. Fact Checking

Combating Misinformation and Disinformation in India

Infographic showing the relationship between misinformation, disinformation and malinformation
Graphic inspired by reporting by Claire Wardle, First Draft

It might seem harmless – a funny video of a man falling off a camel, spreading virally through India – but add in the suggestion that the man is actually a major party leader, and it begins to feed a narrative about politics that fuels misinformation and distrust in the lead-up to elections. 

To help combat misinformation in India, Internews partnered with Google, DataLEADS and others to launch the Google News Initiative India Training Network, a program that has trained more than 13,500 journalists and journalism students in more than 350 workshops conducted in newsrooms, colleges and press clubs in more than 75 cities and 10 languages. 

Learn more about GNI in India