The Frontlines of the Disinformation War: Reuters Institute Study
A study by Reuters institute documents the way three organisations are busting disinformation- Rappler, the Daily Maverick and The Quint 
A study by Reuters institute documents the way three organisations are busting disinformation- Rappler, the Daily Maverick and The Quint  (Photo: iStock)

The Frontlines of the Disinformation War: Reuters Institute Study

A new study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism delves into the importance and challenges of the fight against the threat of disinformation.

The study titled “Lessons in Innovation: How International News Organisations Combat Disinformation through Mission-Driven Journalism”, looks at the strategy employed by three international newsrooms, as they actively engage in fact checking and myth busting while reporting news stories.

The three organisations lead author Julie Posetti observed and wrote about are Rappler, the Daily Maverick and The Quint.

Rappler, based out of the Philippines and founded in 2011 by Maria Ressa, is known for revealing orchestrated digital disinformation campaigns, investigative reports into the government’s drug war and press freedom activism. The South Africa based Daily Maverick, founded in 2009 by Branko Brkic and Styli Charalambous, is known for exposing the Bell Pottinger disinformation scandal, political analysis and investigative journalism into corruption.

The third organisation that Posetti focused on is The Quint. Founded by Raghav Bahl and Ritu Kapur in 2015, The Quint’s fact checking initiative, WebQoof, continues to tirelessly debunk disinformation on a wide range of topics.
‘It’s important to say that the story is not correct. Won’t it make a difference if at least 10,000 people, 20,000 people realise that the story is not true?’
The Quint’s CEO Ritu Kapur 

Posetti spent a week in each of the three newsrooms, attending editorial and project meetings and respective strategy sessions to understand the organisations and how they execute the task at hand in the face of threats and online trolling.

“These newsrooms are under fire from all sides but they continue to produce high-impact and highly innovative public interest journalism as they actively defend media freedom and the public’s right to quality, reliable information.”
Julie Posetti, Senior Research Fellow at the Reuters Institute

The report also highlights the online harassment that the journalists in these newsrooms face. An excerpt on the problem in India reads:

“Gendered online harassment of journalists in India has become a major journalism safety concern. It frequently involves the targeting of female journalists using disinformation tactics including ‘deep fakes’ (Harwell, 2018). The Quint’s reporters regularly face a lot of online harassment in their day-to-day work, especially in response to fact-checking and disinformation stories.”

The study concludes with lessons learnt from the three newsrooms that can be instructive for all news organisations. These include following the approach of having audiences or viewers be part of the process of helping identify disinformation and check facts, and investing in developing expertise in advanced fact-checking.

(Read the full report by the Reuters Institute’s Journalism Innovation project here.)

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