What do you think fuels that willingness to experiment?
I think it’s that history is moving at such a fast clip here. Journalists in the field can see the connection between freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the stability of their democracies and societies, because they remember a time when things were very, very different. They’ve seen the threat of misinformation and how it can be a matter of life and death, especially in the pandemic.
So there’s this visceral need to make it work, a sense that “we don’t have a choice, we have to figure it out as an industry.” Otherwise, the trajectory of history can change very quickly.
Can you give an example?
CekFakta in Indonesia launched ahead of the presidential election in 2019. It was really just a few journalists and folks from the nonprofit sector who came together and said, “We have an election coming, misinformation really affected the last one. We need to take a stand.”
Because of their hard work, on top of everything else they’re doing, they convinced 24 news organizations — top publications that are constantly competing — to work out of the same room, collaboratively fact-checking presidential debates, and again on election day, to counter misinformation as it appeared.
What are some other ways News Lab works with journalists in the region to address misinformation?
Misinformation is top of mind almost everywhere in the region, and journalists feel as if it’s their cross to bear.
One project we recently supported in the Philippines is #FactsFirstPH, a project to connect journalism with the rest of the society ahead of their national elections. A coalition of news organizations came together to collaborate on fact-checking, working in tandem with researchers who analyzed patterns of misinformation, and then partnering with civil society organizations to amplify those fact checks, and with the legal community to hold candidates accountable.
We’re seeing more of this multi-sector collaboration. That’s what’s encouraging: experimentation, collaboration and the embrace of technology to tackle these issues.
Are we better equipped to address misinformation than we were a few years ago?
There’s greater awareness, but it hasn’t translated into institutions gaining trust. People are just more skeptical. That’s the challenge newsrooms face.
What’s interesting in Asia is that you have people coming online for the first time, so there’s an opportunity to develop awareness and resistance to misinformation from the start.