The spread of misinformation and disinformation – by media organisations, corporations, digital platforms, politicians, conspiracy theorists and others – is a massive threat to planetary and public health that we have spectacularly failed to address.
The collective “we” includes the international agencies, governments, regulators, civil society organisations, communities, researchers, practitioners, citizens, businesses and others with a stake in this issue – which is pretty well everyone.
The news that Fox will pay $US787.5 million ($1.17 billion) to Dominion Voting Systems – “one of the largest libel payouts in media history” – to settle a defamation suit arising from its broadcasting of false information in the wake of the 2020 United States election does little to prevent or address the wider problems.
A report in The Guardian suggests that the case reflects the limits of using defamation as a tool to police misinformation, and is unlikely to change anything at Fox.
That said, Fox still faces another billion-dollar defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic, another voting equipment company, as well as a shareholder lawsuit seeking damages for spreading false claims, as well as a suit from a former employee who says she was coerced into giving misleading testimony in the Dominion suit.
In many ways the case reminds us that the wealthy and powerful are often involved in the spread of disinformation and misinformation, which no doubt is one of the reasons for our collective failure in addressing it.
Sprinkled through this column are examples of the pervasiveness of misinformation and disinformation, and the many different contexts in which it occurs, highlighting some of the challenges involved in addressing it.
Punitive laws and policing, as highlighted at the Harm Reduction International conference this week, are so often based not on evidence but upon misinformation and disinformation. This is just one of many examples of how misinformation and disinformation undermine human rights.
This article discusses the spread of misinformation on lockdowns and other public health measures, which the authors refer to as “lock-down revisionism,” and how this phenomenon has damaged trust in public health initiatives designed to keep people safer.
Australia (finally) has an Electric Vehicle Strategy.
This article includes suggestions for how the media can improve its reporting on COVID, including being “vigilant around our unconscious biases that frame some lives as worth saving while others are not”.
The author writes:
More stories need to include voices and perspectives of people from communities that are most at risk from an infection, such as people from the disabled community, from low-income communities, people of color, and elderly people.
And their perspectives should be included broadly — not just in stories specifically about their communities. We also need to take a step back and look at who we are including. [Dr Lucky] Tran notes that the media relies heavily on quoting medical doctors, for example, who are often not trained in public health.”
See the new WHO guidelines This analysis suggests improvements in how the media is covering climate science. The Global Investigative Journalism Network has assembled many useful resources to help journalists do a better job of covering extractive industries. These may also be useful for community groups and environmental and health advocates.
Research and related
Read the article, University ethics boards are not ready for Indigenous scholarsRead the article, Indigenising our universitiesRead the article, Critical Tiriti Analysis: A prospective policy making tool from Aotearoa New Zealand
Events coming up