11 Dec 2023 Fact check, yes. And join a community of trust.
A recent webinar co-organized by WACC and the World Council of Churches on the churches’ role in misinformation and disinformation highlighted the dilemmas all of us face to effectively challenge lies online, whether deliberately created or inadvertently shared.
Fact-checking has become one of the essential fronts against disinformation and misinformation – by dedicated organizations, news agencies and affected non-profits. But as Eliot Higgins, himself a co-founder of a fact-checking organisation, Bellingcat, points out, it only addresses the symptoms of our technological and societal shift, not the root causes.
In the webinar, Higgins broke down the multiple reasons for the rise and impact of disinformation and misinformation – from people’s sense of fear and breakdown of trust with institutions to the easy search for answers online and algorithms which increasingly direct the user farther into answers and communities that build on their original fear.
Fact-checking, while a vital resource, has no impact on those who don’t trust the source in the first place and have found a community which validates their distorted views.
“Facts” are important in response to misinformation but won’t prevent it. “Access” is vital to increase people’s opportunities for information and participation but can’t guarantee the quality of that interaction. “Education” is critical but also needs the right tools and approach – not to mention language. And structural issues – ownership of media and digital platforms, government regulation, economic and political transparency – all impact people individually and collectively.
Education and digital resilience is obviously key, but the conversation highlighted the importance of community. How can people link to and be strengthened by communities which support honest, open, and truthful communication?
Once again, we are reminded how fundamental a holistic communication environment is for a fair, participatory, democratic society.
WACC, along with many other membership organisations, approaches the end of the year with renewal reminders to our personal and organisational members. For WACC, it’s not so much about the income – although membership fees all go to our regional associations for their activities and networking.
Rather, it is becoming much more imperative to see engagement in WACC as part of that vital community connection that helps people and institutions to value access, freedom of expression, and the skills and knowledge to critically assess the information that swirls around us.
Let’s champion facts. But let each of us also actively network and connect people to our community so that we are all strengthened to contribute and participate in an informed society.
Want to take action?
- Learn more from the webinar on misinformation and disinformation.
- Watch the webinar recording to hear the presentations by Higgins and panelists from Brazil, Kenya, the Philippines, and the USA, and follow the discussion.
- Join the WACC community of trust promoting an informed, fair, participatory, and democratic society.