Disinformation in the time of covid and critical thinking as a defense
How did the disinformation affect the Covid-19 pandemic in the world and in the Czech Republic? From which sources did this disinformation come the most? How can we better defend against disinformation? In the presentation, Petr Ludwig will focus on the topic of critical thinking and media literacy as one of the main tools for prevention against the spread of disinformation in the 21st century.
Fact-checking at AFP: Harnessing the power of a global news agency
AFP Fact-Checking Europe
Propaganda, disinformation, hoaxes. They have become so pervasive it’s no longer possible to imagine social media without them. My presentation will focus on the process of identifying and debunking false information on social media in the Czech Republic using various AFP-approved digital and editorial tools. Together we will learn how the world’s oldest news agency caught the wave and evolved into one of the most respected outfits in the fast-growing fact-checking industry.
Today, AFP is an official partner of Facebook, debunking fake news in more than 20 languages on five continents. Our fact-checkers monitor online content in local languages, taking into account local culture and politics and working with AFP’s news bureaus worldwide. This gives the AFP fact-checking network an unparalleled depth and scope, as our journalists constantly share and compare information, complement each other’s work and quickly identify emerging disinformation trends.
Although a lot of disinformation is country-specific, there are also fake narratives that are global, traveling from country to country like wildfire. This has become particularly obvious in the past year when the world was seized by the coronavirus pandemic. We will take a look at some examples of such stories, how they emerge, evolve, and become modified for specific markets, and how a global news agency such as AFP can use its scope and manpower to quickly identify and debunk such narratives in multiple countries.
A data driven approach to countering hate speech
Stavros VologiannidisCo-Founder of DataScouting, Assistant Professor at the International Hellenic University
Communications and Marketing Executive, DataScouting
Sophia will outline why journalists are special targets of hate speech and how protection is treated across different countries. Furthermore, she will describe the different forms of hate speech (such as textual, hidden, fake news, or deep fakes) with real examples found on social media. Who has targeted most and the different types of hate speech in the EU? Finally, Sophia will describe some of the most important linguistic challenges her team of human annotators encountered when coding hate speech on social media posts. Stavros will explain why automated detection of hate speech still consists of a very difficult and intriguing problem and will outline some technical facts about hateful speech, and the role of supervised Machine Learning and Deep Neural Networks for its identification. The outcomes of the DACHS project will be presented regarding the creation of the hate speech training dataset, how active learning was used, and the deep learning models that were chosen.
Data sharing system describing the COVID-19 epidemic in the Czech Republic
Martin Komenda, Daniel Klimeš, Ondřej Májek, Jiří Jarkovský, Jan Mužík, Milan Blaha, Jakub Gregor, Ladislav Dušek
Institute of Biostatistics and Analyses, Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University; Institute of Health Information and Statistics of the Czech Republic
At the time when the COVID-19 pandemic began to pose a dramatic threat to the Czech Republic, a team of experts from the Institute of Health Information and Statistics of the Czech Republic (IHIS CR) and the Institute of Biostatistics and Analyses at the Faculty of Medicine of the Masaryk University (IBA FM MU), under the methodical guidance of the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic, focused on the design and development of conceptual processing and publication of data. With regard to characteristics of data on the COVID-19 epidemic, it is obviously not possible to publish primary records that are kept in central databases, mainly due to personal data protection as well as the provision of valid and correctly interpreted information. This contribution aims to introduce a comprehensive system of data preparation, processing and visualisation, which is intended for the general public, media, and academic institutions as well as for crisis management. A detailed knowledge of methodical processes employed in epidemiology and healthcare provision is of key importance, and the same applies for the know-how needed for an effective data analysis and the development of software tools. In practice, an interconnection of various teams and specialties has been achieved, namely regional and national methodology specialists in data collection from the Regional Public Health Authorities, specialists reporting positive records, developers of central registries, analysts, developers of web applications, the central management team of the COVID-19 epidemic, and the leadership of the healthcare department. All these efforts have led to regular reporting on the epidemiological situation in the Czech Republic, which consists of static presentations including data sources, online visualisation platforms, open data sets and a secure application programming interface for data distribution on the level of individual regions. All static and interactive reports have been built on the same data basis, which has been continuously developed according to current requirements and the changing epidemiological situation. Open data have indisputably the biggest potential for the future, as they offer a standardised way of either machine-based or manual processing. The entire system of publishing data on the COVID-19 epidemic strives to provide comprehensive and correct information to the above-mentioned target audience.
Navigating through COVID-19 infodemic and disinfodemic: Surviving with the help of fact-checking, MIL approach and technology based solutions
Department of Culture and Media Studies, Central University of Rajasthan
The 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has posed critical threats to the people across the globe. It has proven to be very challenging for nations to deal with critical public health emergency. In addition to COVID-19 pandemic, deluge of fake news (common term for misinformation and disinformation) about this novel corona virus has further turned out to be problematic for people and governments. Infodemic – tsunami of both accurate and inaccurate information – about COVID-19 pandemic has been acknowledged as a major global public health crisis. Flood of fake news on COVID-19 makes it difficult for people to get verified information, adopt appropriate lifestyle and make informed decisions. By creating confusions and uncertainty about vital information, infodemic undermines global response to public health crisis. Prevalent fake news on COVID-19 pandemic relates to various aspects which include origin and spread of corona virus, remedies, vaccination, lockdown, preparedness of governments, communal hatred, economic impact and propaganda among others. Considering the deadly impact of COVID-19 related disinformation on people’s health, a UNESCO policy brief on COVID-19 disinformation coins the terms disinfodemic to address emergent ecosystem of fake news. Disinfodemic characterizes the notion that fake news on COVID-19 disempowers people by restraining their critical thinking and sense-making abilities which results in fatal health behaviors. Given the importance of having access to reliable information to contain the spread of COVID-19, it is necessary to protect the information landscape from infodemic and disinfodemic. Fact-checking, media and information literacy (MIL), regulatory framework and technology-based solutions are being advocated to fight the fake news. Since social media plays a crucial role in the spread of fake news, necessary algorithmic changes are being made on social media platforms to spot and stop the fake news and to promote fact-checked stories from established and trusted media and fact-checking organizations. Different Artificial Intelligence (AI) based projects are also being developed which can discern the fake news and deter its contagious spread. It is against the backdrop of infodemic and disinfodemic pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, this paper attempts to provide synthesis of scholarly literature on the phenomenon of fake news, the very nature of infodemic, and disinfodemic, their damaging effects on public health, and the importance of credible information landscape. To survive the infodemic and disinfodemic and to combat the menace of COVID-19 related fake news, this paper further provides the discussion on preventive measures which include fact-checking, media and information literacy (MIL) approach, and technology-based solutions.
COVID-19 corpus: characteristics of the news their preprocessing
Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University, Prague
To ensure the objectivity of the evaluation of media news focused on coronavirus, we based the project methods on the assumption of processing a large volume of text covering a wide range of media publishers. However, such an approach is already beyond the traditional practices used in journalism, often operating only on hundreds of media news.
In the project, we used Newton Media data, which focuses on monitoring and analyzing media activity. In 2020 alone, the company collected more than a million media news treating the coronavirus pandemia by monitoring more than 3,000 media publishers and various news channels. We also process more than one million contributions from discussion posts to media news, various blogs, and forums in the project.
We used data mining methods applied to news texts combined with basic natural language processing procedures focusing on the specifics of the Czech language. The content of each item of news and its metadata are stored in the form of text and related attributes in a repository that can handle billions of messages.
Initially, the primary goals were the frequency analysis of the occurrence of words and the style of using war metaphors from the media’s perspective with different characters of the news channels. In the next step of the analysis, the essential characteristics of the media space are calculated. The analysis dedicated to the content of messages and their ongoing changes during the development of the pandemic builds on the generation of wordclouds with approximately two hundred of the most frequent words. To characterize journalistic expressions and approach, we provide diagrams of the time evolution of the frequency characteristics of selected phrases, such as war metaphors or phrases evaluating numerical extremes. We have also tested clustering of topic aspects to identify their positive and negative influences on the readership.
In our contribution, we will present a more detailed description of the characteristics of the obtained corpora, comment on the basic steps of their processing, including the primary outputs used in the project to analyze the events of the development of the pandemic situation.
Covid-19 infodemic in India: A practical framework to limit the deluge of misinformation around the virus
Arif Hussain Nadaf
Assistant Professor, Department of Journalism & Mass Communication Islamic University of Science & Technology, Kashmir (India)
The perpetual diffusion of misinformation and fake news emerged as one of the major consequences of the covid-19 pandemic. Besides fighting the spread of the novel virus, governments across the world faced a persistent challenge of an infodemic in the form of hoaxes and misleading information regarding the disease. In India, the second-most populous country in the world, the socio-political fault lines and existing political polarization led to a surge in misleading information and fake news during the Covid-19 pandemic. The infodemic witnessed racial discrimination against ethnic groups. The northeast Indians with mongoloid origins (like Chinese people) were targeted as the suspect carrier of the virus. Moreover, in India, the covid-19 pandemic coincided with a highly polarized political context in the wake of ‘anti-Muslim’ citizenship laws in the country. India is a typical case where communal elements used covid-19 rhetoric to trigger a disinformation campaign against the minority Muslims. The religious polarization in the political discourse found an intensive reaction on social media platforms and spontaneously transcended into a perpetual Islamophobic discourse in the form of hate speech, fake news, and misinformation against Indian Muslims.
Whether it was about the origins of the virus, the spread, or the cure for the victims, the mainstream media in India, as well as social media, fell prey to the flooding misinformation around the virus. During the unprecedented health crises, the crackdown on independent media platforms and curbs on journalistic freedom to cover the ground realities became one of the major impediments in maintaining an informed citizenry in India. Such undemocratic measures resulted in the scarcity of authentic news consequently paving fertile space for misinformation and fake news in the public sphere.
The paper explicates the 3 identified stages of covid-19 infodemic in India which traces the perpetual misinformation around the Coronavirus- “Misinformation about the origins of virus”-“The spread-communal misinformation”-“Cure-Misinformation about the treatment”. The paper suggests and explicates a practical framework that involves government authorities, journalists, and educational institutions to curb the misinformation menace around the Corona pandemic.
Crisis Theory: dislocation, mourning and the recollection of normativity
Political Sciences Department, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Every crisis is a matter of a dislocation process. The symbolic and discursive meaningful constructions are getting rearticulated in a new way demanding/seeking/fighting for social hegemony, formulating subjectivities (individual and collective), triggering emotional moving and particular passions and delivering a new societal meaning.
With this paper we are aiming to compare two experiences of crisis, the global financial crisis (2008-2010), and the health/pandemic crisis of 2020 according to the crisis management process, the flow of information, the role of both new and traditional media, the needs of the people/audience/user, the info patterns in the sense of news and media literacy and the issue of trust.
Applying this comparison, we aim to shed light on the systemic crisis mechanisms either as a mode or a symptom, the role of information flow in such situations, and the human agency.
Our methodological basis is the Discourse Theoretical Analysis (so-called Essex School Discourse Theory). Our theoretical framework combines Cybernetics and systemic thinking (especially the third Cybernetical wave), Lacanian political psychoanalysis and post-humanism.
On the wave of fear, negativity and disinformation
Alice Němcová Tejkalová, Veronika Macková, Victoria Nainová
Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University, Prague
Mass media and social media play an important role in informing about health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a large number of new disinformation websites and social networking sites were established. Some of them just exchanged topics (e.g. from the migration crisis) and started focusing on the current ones. The amount of information is not verified on social networks, which is why readers may have a problem verifying the veracity of the information. Health disinformation does not refer to medical professionals or put their statements out of context (Southwell, 2019). In addition, social media are easier for using visual material which draws more attention to the post and it is more likely to be circulated (Brennen et al., 2020).
The main research question was: How can disinformation websites be identified on social networks?
In the qualitative content analysis, we focused on the basic parameters of the functioning of two different web pages that spread fake news and disinformation on Facebook. We analyzed two Facebook pages in the period from December 1, 2020, to March 20, 2021. The first page “ProtiProud” (CounterStream) is a classic disinformation page with photo collages and a large amount of visual material as well as very radical posts. On the contrary, the second analyzed page “Otevři svou mysl” (Open your mind) looks much more convincing. The authors of this page use very clear graphic design, formal language and there are no slang expressions in the texts. These facts help make it seem like a reliable source of information for readers. Both sites are trying to use COVID-19 and vaccinations to spread fear and reinforce conspiracy theories. The sites and many of their fans (readers) use elements of war propaganda aimed at dehumanizing the enemy. We also focused on fans and visitors to these sites. What they have about themselves on Facebook or what they share on their personal public profiles, etc.
Indicators and Specifics of Fake Websites (The Case of Georgia)
Associated Professor, IvaneJavakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences , Department of Journalism and Mass Communication
MA student of Media Psychology and Communications, IvaneJavakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
We live in a world of constant change, where the influence of social media is indisputably colossal. Consequently, these advancements have brought us the progressive sophistication of social networks and daily increase of registered users on these platforms. However, the “visiting cards” and brending of the most famous and trusted media organizations – the names and the designs of their websites – remains unchanged.
It is well-known that the spread of fake news has certain preconditions, which in this case is COVID-19. In order to survive the excessive wave of disinformation in the COVID-19 era, it is important to study the websites that spread fake news.
Therefore, the aim of the research is to identify fake websites and the main manipulators of their content and to demonstrate the purpose of spreading fake news on these websites.
After thorough analysis, we have developed these research questions:
RQ1: What type of fake news was shared in selected fake website about COVID-19?
RQ2: Which manipulators are used widely in fake websites?
RQ3: What key indicators does a fake website have?
RQ4: What kind of user feedback do we see on fake news?
After observing and detecting fake news on social media we studied one of the first sources of false information – abcnews.com.ge that can be considered a fake analogue of the ABC.com. We also compared it to the fake Time News website and its content. A comparative analysis helped us to identify the tendencies and characteristic of fake websites.
The study was conducted over a one year period, from March 2020 to March 2021.
According to the research hypothesis, during COVID-19, the websites spread fake news and falsify information relevant to a specific time and use designs of well-known websites and media organizations in order to increase revenue and attract users.
Quantitative and qualitative content analysis, Focus groups and in-depth interview methods were used to confirm or refute the hypothesis.
As a result of the research, the indicators of fake websites will be formed, which will be an important contribution to fake news exposure and timely prevention of misinformation in the future.
Quantitative media analysis and COVID-19: Myths and facts about coronavirus vaccination
One of the potentially effective tools for managing the “infodemia” associated with the current coronavirus situation is media analysis. A well-processed media analysis can map the entire breadth of media coverage of a certain time-limited phenomenon and at the same time capture its main features, typologies, and variables. This can help to identify which publicity is problematic (e.g. in terms of disseminating false or misleading information about COVID-19), what are its defining features, what groups it is divided into, who is involved in its dissemination, and so on. Quantitative media analysis conceived in this way can function as an important link between the initial view of a media expert who identifies the problem and its basic outlines, and an in-depth qualitative analysis of certain sub-phenomena that emerged from the quantitative research of the topic.
The procedure and results of the quantitative media analysis focused on the publicity of COVID-19 will be shown in this paper on the example of how the Czech media inform about the topic of coronavirus vaccination and about emerging and available vaccines. The paper will focus on traditional – print, online – media, including television, and radio over the past 12 months. The analysis will show which types of arguments regarding vaccination against COVID-19 dominated the Czech media space, how their occurrence changed over time, and which events had an impact on it. It will also compare the media approach to selected vaccines. Mentions of vaccinations and vaccines will be assigned to individual media to show which media have been more involved in this publicity and which have been less. It is only a step away from tracking how information on vaccination and vaccines has spread, which media have contributed to confidence in vaccination and vaccines and which, in turn, has strengthened public distrust and concern about them.