Building a model for collaborating to combat misinformation crises

22 September 2020 | Phoebe Arnold and Nicola Aitken

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted a slew of measures attempting to grapple with huge volumes and newly challenging kinds of misinformation—from internet companies, fact checkers, governments and public health bodies.

Fact checkers collaborated to catch cross-border claims and identify misinformation trends faster, and expanded their monitoring processes to capture claims made on new or increasingly popular platforms and channels.

Most internet companies improved the supply of high quality, relevant information from local official sources on their platforms, and quickly released clear guidelines on non-acceptable content about Covid-19.

Governments invested in digital public information campaigns and established special units to combat disinformation. All of this was done under intense time pressure and in an atmosphere of anxiety and confusion, rapidly changing information, and the practical challenges brought about by the pandemic.

These changes are forming what could be a foundation for maintaining the supply of reliable information around future elections and unexpected events like terror attacks and natural disasters—events triggering information crises that require a greater or different response than during ‘business as usual’ times.

The community is converging around common principles such as the need for a good supply of information, the importance of empowering users, and the benefits of working collaboratively with relevant, responsible experts.

However, these principles are not applied consistently and there are still important gaps around transparency and information-sharing. We need to raise our sights higher and plan collective responses so that we are on the front foot when the next incident affecting our information environment hits.

That is why Full Fact is bringing together experts from different misinformation-related backgrounds to create a new approach together.

We’ll set globally-relevant principles for preventing and mitigating the harm caused by bad information, to give clear direction when the next crisis occurs. With the support of Facebook, we are creating a working group with representatives from fact checkers, internet companies, governments around the world and civil society. We will release a first version of our agreed approach at the end of 2020.

Over the next three months, we will build the foundations of a better system for working together, assembling ideas from a globally diverse group to create practical guidelines to help rapid, proportionate responses to different levels of incident severity.

We’ll also ensure that this approach continues to stay relevant and useful into the future: as misinformation tactics and environments develop, so must our responses.

In the coming weeks and months, we will announce the names of those who are joining the working group and publish a number of papers on the issues that we are working through and discussing.

Subscribe for updates, or check back here to stay informed.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.