Responding to disinformation in times of COVID-19 and geopolitical conflict – FA 04 Sub 01 2022

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22 June 2022 | 16:20 - 17:30 CEST | SISSA Main Auditorium | Video recording | Transcript
Consolidated programme 2022 overview / Day 2

Proposals: #1 #56 #59 (#2) (#5)

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Session teaser

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Session description

Disinformation can undermine democracy, create division and distort public debate. We have witnessed how disinformation has polarized the debate on the pandemic and on the measures to deal with it, how the ‘infodemic’ has even been a driver of the crisis. Polarization has sometimes led to online harassment and physical aggression against journalists and politicians. In geopolitical conflicts disinformation has long been used to influence public opinion and policy making and in the war against Ukraine we have experienced that information can be weaponized. In crisis situations there is a tendency to “exceptionally” interfere with human rights and media freedom. Crises have been used as a pretext by states to put in place exceptional measures sometimes derogating from the European Convention on Human Rights. At the same time, social media are not always assuming the neutral platform role they claim to have. In this session we will discuss what should be and has been done to address these challenges by intergovernmental organizations, governments, civil society, the media and social media.

Further reading

Council of Europe CoE webpages on:

Relevant Committee of Ministers' and other instruments:

Reports and information documents:



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Focal Point

  • Nicola Frank, EBU

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  • Giacomo Mazzone
  • Giovanni De Gregorio
  • Narine Khachatryan
  • Rodica Ciochina
  • Luc Steinberg
  • Nicola Frank

Key Participants

  • Prof. Dr. Matthias C. Kettemann, Leibniz Institut for Media Research, Hamburg / University of Innsbruck, Austria
    Governing Information Conflicts: private and public approaches to disinformation during War (online, PowerPoint)
  • Rachel Pollack, Associate Programme Specialist, Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, UNESCO
    The pandemic and the infodemic (on site, PowerPoint)
  • Giacomo Mazzone, Member of the EDMO Advisory Board
    Fact-checking during the war (on site, PowerPoint)
  • Eric Scherer, Chair of EBU News Committee, France Télévisions
    Public Service Media combatting disinformation in times of crisis (on site)
  • Urska Umek, Head of the Media Unit, Media and Internet Governance Division, Council of Europe
    The Human Rights perspective (online)
  • Viola von Cramon MEP, shadow rapporteur on ‘Foreign interference in all democratic processes in the EU’ (tbc)
    The European Parliament’s approach
  • Prabhat Agarwal, Head of Unit Digital Services and Platforms at DG CONNECT, European Commission (tbc)
    The Digital Services Act’s obligation for trusted flaggers

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  • Nicola Frank, Head of Institutional and International Relations, EBU

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>> NADIA TJAHJA: Kindly, I would ask you to start taking your seats. We’re just about to start focus area 4, subtopic 1S Responding to disinformation in times of COVID-19 and geopolitical conflict.

I will give the floor to the moderator, Nicola Frank, head of the institutional and international relations at the EBU.

>> NICOLA FRANK: (No audio).

My microphone was not on. That’s right better.

Welcome to the last session of the day. I welcome everybody here. I hope that you will participate online and here in the room. This is just to remind everybody for those that have maybe just joined us now online, this is another hybrid session. You can participate, you can raise your hand if you want to participate in the discussion afterwards.

We have also a hybrid panel so we have some people online and some people here in the room we’re joined online from Mattias Kettemann, Leibniz, Austria, we have the Council of Europe, unfortunately, the European Parliament is having their Plenary this week and she couldn’t arrange it, and she tried hard.

Here with me on the stage, we have Rachel Pollack, associate programme specialist for Freedom of Expression and safety of journalists from UNESCO. We have Giacomo Mazzone, member of the EDMO advisory board and Urska Umek, Director of France television from media lab and international affairs.

Importantly, for the EBU, our Chairman for the news Committee. A warm welcome to the panel.

Thank you for being here.

What do you want to discuss today? I wanted to go back to the definition of disinformation, a lot of people that you can about it, what is it really? What I found in the communication from 2018.

It is quite a good deaf figures, going beyond, maybe you have to review that a little bit. What we have seen, over the last years, it really how disinformation can undermine democrat and debate and create public debate and this polarized debate on the pandemic, on measures to deal with this and how the so-called infodemic is a driver of the crisis.

The seconded thing to discuss today is the geopolitical conflicts. This information, it is not a new phenomenon, but with social media, this tool, it has really gained a new dimension and we have seen in the war with Ukraine that dis information has even been weaponized.

At the same time, we have the problem that social media is not always assuming a neutral platform role as they claim to have.

Today we want to find out how the situation really is and we discuss what should be and has been done to address it. This panel with the distinguished experts and practitioners will help us to hopefully find some answers.

Let us start with Mattias Kettemann, a professor of innovation theory and philosophy of law and he leads research for example on global Constitutionalism and the internet and on private communication. There are a lot of issues that we deal with here today.

Today, you want to talk about the research on conflict information governance, especially the war in Ukraine and about private and public approaches to this. You have the floor. I think you have a presentation if you want to share that, go ahead.

>> MATTHIAS KETTEMANN: I have a presentation. Thank you very much.

First of all, what we’re seeing today, it is not a new phenomenon. We know that disinformation has been around for a long, long time. Myths abound in literature and in our societies since time has been memorial. We have a new quality of disinformation, disinformation is used, you mentioned it is a notion of weaponization, it is used to further certain political ends.

The problem with dealing with disinformation, it is that it is a wicked problem in political theory, it is a problem that cannot actually be solved, it can be mitigated, but it can’t be resolved, it won’t go away.

We know, already now, that the next generation, we have to deal with the disinformation as well.

However, right now, we’re in a period of time where we arguably talk too much about disinformation and fail to understand the disinformation and the effects. Talking too much about disinformation is a problem because this leads to a decrease in trust, in traditional media, in traditional communication processes, in government, in authorities.

This is actually one of the key goals of disinformation actors. They do not want us, they do not want the requests, they do not want democratic societies to rely on authority resources, they want to convey a feeling that everything is negotiable, that untruths permeate our lived experience. In a certain way, we have to talk less about disinformation and think more about how to effectively counter it. This is why Russia’s war against Ukraine is a sad, tragic A good example also of how to deal with disinformation. We see today that disinformation is part and parcel of any conflict related strategy. Conflicts are happening both online, offline, we have seen attacks against the Ukrainian cyber infrastructure and actually infrastructure happening for years before this recent war was started by Russia.

We have seen the interconnection between attacks and between the attacks through the medium of information. It is incredibly hard to go against these kinds of attacks. What’s happened, you know, what did European states, what did the European media, what did platforms do to counter these attacks? Well, you all know that the European Union has prohibited certain Russian state news media from appearing within the Europe media orders, and they have asked platforms to support them in that attempt.

I’m in the completely convinced that states are in the best position to fight against the disinformation by prohibiting news outlets completely.

I believe that the majority played a major role in the fight against disinformation, it has to be played by platforms, but not alone. There are processes of dealing with disinformation. It has to be audited and controlled by states and regional democratic bodies. That’s exactly the approach that the European Union has of late been taking, by example, through the rules provided in the Digital Services Act. It does not provide notably for a new information related crimes, it couldn’t, it is not within the Europe competency, it does provide for clear rules, what has to be known from platforms, what has to be known about the recommender algorithm, what risks exist within the rules and practices of each platform.

This I believe is an important approach to both ensuring that we not run into the problem of over broad – sorry for the background – of over broad regulation, and at the same time, ensuring an effective countering of disinformation. We know that this is not going to be a task that falls only to our generation but also to the next generation but what we have to do today, it is to ensure that the rules, that the rules that we develop today are enough to ensure that also the next generation still has enough freedom to decide political questions by themselves.

This is very similar, I’ll end with that thought. Very similar to a recent judgment by the German Constitution court on the question of climate laws. In that judgment, the court said that politicians today had it pass laws which ensure that the next generation still has the freedom necessary to decide for themselves the political priorities. We’re in an age of a different kind of Climate Change as well. A political Climate Change and we ensure that through our laws and practice, through the way that we control platforms, dealings with disinformation that we do not allow that political Climate Change to lead to situations with the next generation not having enough tools to lead their own lives and to live within communicative orders that they can influence, that can help them live positive, fulfilling lives.

Thank you very much for having me.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Thank you. That’s a powerful start to the discussion.

Now our next speaker is Rachel. Rachel is a specialist in Freedom of Expression and digital technologies at UNESCO and coordinates the UNESCO’s series of useful reports on world trends and Freedom of Expression and Media Development. She also leads work on potentially harmful content online such as hate speech and mis and disinformation, and all of that in the context of respect of Human Rights online.

We have just heard from Mattias Kettemann about disinformation in the context of the war. Rachel, according to UNESCO research, what’s been the situation regarding what some people call the disinfodemic in the COVID crisis and how does UNESCO address it? You have the floor.

>> RACHEL POLLACK: My name is Rachel Pollack, a specialist in Freedom of Expression in UNESCO and I’ll be presenting some of our findings and work to counter disinformation in the context of COVID-19.

I would like to first give context about the landscape in general in freedom of eggs precious and media development. We consider that journalism is one of the best ways to counter disinformation and to provide true and reliable information to the public.

These statistics you see, they come from the report on world trends and Freedom of Expression in media development which we released in March of this year. We see that there have been many challenges facing journalism in 85% of the world’s population, it has experienced a decline of press freedom in their country in the last five years. The media industry has also faced major challenges to their business models. We have observed a 50% decline in ad revenue for globals, it was according to research that we did with economist impact.

We also see a persisting threat to the safety of journalists in the last five years, the 455 journalists were killed during their work, of course, there’s been a spike this year related to the war in Ukraine.

We have also seen a Ryan Clough in disinformation and also in this report, we found that 57% of respondents were of concern about being exposed to disinformation, it was especially high in Africa and Latin America and at the same time there have been a number of initiatives to counter disinformation, fact checking initiatives, and that’s really exploded from 96 in 2016 to almost 300 in 2020.

As was mentioned by Mattias Kettemann, the result of the information, it is decline in trust and information sources. We see that there is Las decline in trust and social media, the internet, particularly social media, but also search engines and traditional media.

Within this overall context of disinformation, we have also observed what we call a disinfodemic. The WHO said that while the pandemic was spreading, there was a spread in rumors, myths, misleading statements that they call an infodemic, and UNESCO made the observation that in many cases there is a harmful impact. Whether the disinformation is spread with the intention of being misleading or not, the impact is often the same.

You may remember some of the pieces of disinformation related to the pandemic that related to the origin, the spread, the vaccines, so the rumors were that mouth wash could kill COVID that Bill Gates was implanting chips, and, of course, all of this had really dramatic impacts on the public health response and people’s willingness to take vaccine, for example. During COVID, there was a Ryan Clough in fact checking initiative, we saw more than 100 fact checking organizations ever debunking as many as 1700 false claims per month related to COVID-19. There was also a lot of spread of disinformation online, on Twitter, there were 1 million tweets observed in September of 2020 related to the pandemic with inaccurate, unreliable, misleading information.

So how did UNESCO respond to this? We have put out a variety of policy tools and guidelines geared to help our Member States and policymakers, but also companies and Civil Society organizations in their efforts, I have put on the screen here a number of those, I would really encourage you to take a look besides the world trend report series which was mentioned, we had a special issue brief on journalism, press freedom, COVID-19 and also have put out policy briefs specifically on the d disinfodemic and we have a report on balling Freedom of Expression and disinformation on the internet and we have had guidelines for judicial actors. We also developed courses, UNESCO, the UN institute for training and research has a mobile course on combating disinformation and supporting Freedom of Expression with the WHO we initiated a series of interagency dialogues on disinformation and data transparency, we launched that in October of 2020 and we’ll have the 10th dialogue in July of this year organized by UN global pulse.

We have a resource centre of responses to COVID-19.

Our general approach to encountering disinformation is building competencies in media literacy, we read the MIL alliance and earlier we celebrate the media and literacy week in October. We have also had an initiative to promote the transparency of internet platform companies through a selection of 26 high-level principles ranging from their procedures and policies and content moderation and curation to terms of service, data protection and teaching user, media and information literacy.

Quickly, last slide, in our efforts to combat COVID related disinformation we had projects on the ground, one notably was called coronavirus facts, supported by the European Commission and worked in nine countries and four subregions to train fact checkers and journalists and also to teach media information literacy.

We had massive open online courses training more than 30,000 journalists. We have a project called social media for peace, always financed by the E.U. working with Civil Society organizations and platforms on content moderation and understanding local context which is very important.

I will end there.

I have left my contact information and for those here on site, I would be very happy to speak about ways to collaborate with UNESCO and many thanks again for the invitation.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Thank you. These were frightening figures I must say. The development of the situation, it is really worsening by the hour unfortunately.

We’re very impressed as well by all of the activities UNESCO has undertaken to address that issue.

The press question, it may be who should clean always behind the mess create by others.

That’s a bigger question.

Let us now go to the Council of Europe, a lawyer at the Council of Europe, Urska Umek, responsible for developing standard in the area of Freedom of Expression and media freedom in the digital public sphere. We have in the previous session, we heard a lot about Human Rights and the importance of values and Human Rights. The Council of Europe is of course a watchdog of the European Convention of Human Rights and Member States are in principle bound by the Convention.

We have seen in the Council of Europe, they have looked at this closely that in crisis situations Member States sometimes divert from these principles and they have a tendency to exceptionally interfere with Human Rights and media freedom in particular, that is an interesting part for us here. In this context, sometimes the crisis situations are used as a pretext to do so.

How are Member States doing this? I’m sure that you will talk about this as well. Is it, for example, acceptable, can it be acceptable to restrict media freedom, other fundamental rights for a limited time, for example, in a crisis situation?

>> URSKA UMEK: Good afternoon.

It is a pleasure to join the discussion albeit I’m here via Zoom.

I would start by saying, first of all, yes, it is permissible to restrict media freedom. It is permissible to restrict Freedom of Expression, not only for limited amounts of time. However, of course, the limitations have to meet certain requirements to be compliant with the Convention. We will be talking about that.

I will start that unfortunately in recent year, we have had ample opportunity to see how Human Rights have been impacted by disinformation. We also have seen how they have been impacted by some of the responses to disinformation and I will in fact focus a bit more on the responses.

I will not have time to mention the underlying standards of the Council of Europe. They have been kindly uploaded to the Wiki page of our session. Everybody who is interested of course will be able to look at the underpinning principles and rules that are sort of embedded in what I’m going to say.

Now, as has been said, disinformation is a serious threat to democratic institutions requiring an appropriate response. What constitutes that appropriate response from the Human Rights perspective, which, of course, is the perspective of the Council of Europe. Such response to comply with the European values of Human Rights, democracy, the rule of law, and I wish to make three points by briefly and hopefully will illustrate this more concretely.

First, in response to what was being said by Nicola Frank, it is understood also in Human Rights context that extraordinary circumstances will require extraordinary measures. Those inevitably encroach on rights and freedoms. Most Human Rights in the Convention can be restricted already on the basis of the European Convention on Human Rights. Indeed, sometimes measures of exceptional measure, in emergencies require also irrigations from the Convention obligation. This possibility to derogate, to temporarily reduce the applicable scope of the Convention, it is an important feature of the Convention system. It permits the Convention to continue to apply in this limited scope and – also perhaps even more importantly – it permits the supervisory machinery with the European Court of Human Rights to still continue to perform its role.

What happened during COVID, for example, we have had several of our Member States informing the organization about such derogation. Although I have to say here, some of the states that adopted most restrictive measure, legislation, made no such notification through the organization which was quite telling I think.

Some states explicitly derogated from Article 10 which guarantees everyone the right to Freedom of Expression. Now, some of these measures described in the notifications, it would include, for example, the requirements of the media to provide official information on COVID and government measures that were taken in response to COVID.

This is, of course, done to counteract disinformation. What happened also, it was that sometimes media would be required to not depart from the official information, to only use official sources. This, of course, become as bit problematic here, the vision of the media, independently gathering information and verifying them for accuracy, and this includes government information.

Other restrictions that were more problematic, they were included requirements to take down online information that was deemed by the state fake or distorted.

In some states, disinformation was criminalized, in more extreme cases, the new legislation impact exceeded the period of the pandemic and was made permanent and also punishable by prison sentences.

In some states, yes, we could say that derogations were used to restrict the Freedom of Expression and this leads to the second-pointer point I want to make on legality and proportionately of restrictions. Dis information covers potentially a large range of expressions that under the Convention not all that is factually inaccurate is also illegal.

In fact, for the most part, factually wrong expression is protected under Article 10 of the Convention. Unless it also interferes with one of the – one other more of the legitimate aims that justify restrictions and health, as well as national cybersecurity, are among such aim.

Notions such as calls or distorted information, it is simply conveyed and they would hardly comply with the requirement of legality, mainly that they should be clear, foreseeable, narrowly including also in emergency situations and the court can, in fact, post facto assess such even emergency measures..

This involved quickly changing information where information was not possible to verify in realtime and mistakes can happen. That’s I didn’t restrictions were proportionate and need to prevent also possibly devastating damage. Then, procedural safeguards are essential, all decisions restricting Freedom of Expression need to be recent and subject to judicial review.

The larger the interference, the more important it is to have such safeguards. Also in terms of combating online disinformation, this applies. In the sense, that it is important to note that beyond removable, there are other content moderation techniques that can be used through harmful, not illegal content, such as down ranking or provision of additional information for users like trigger warnings for additional content from independent sources.

This independent source, it is mainly bringing to the final point, hopefully we can expand a bit on that later, that’s of building a communication environment that promotes quality information.

Now, during the pandemic we have seen the amount of quality news going up – demand – and I think this demand for trustworthy information, it is also during the war but the ability of the in media to deliver on that, of course, it was done long before the pandemic and vanished during the pandemic.

Just to complete, I would say that a conversation about how to support the sustainable independent journalism in the media needs to be an inherent part of any disinformation today.

Thank you very much for having me.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Thank you very much.

You touched on a lot of different issue, quite complex also, to understand all of those. There were some keywords which are important here. Trustworthy information, quality information, which is necessary to counter disinformation and the question who decides also what is this information. Can the government decide what the disinformation is? Can platforms decide? All of these issues, they play an important role in this debate.

It probably deserves a longer discussion on their own.

Let us now come to Giacomo Mazzone. Many of you know Giacomo Mazzone well, a former colleague of mine at the EBU and a longstanding active contributor to EuroDIG. He’s a journalist and a former Director of news and worked for international public media and private media.

Today he represents here the Board of The European digital media observatory which brings together fact checker, media literacy experts and academic researchers, EDMO. Let’s hear why EDMO was set up, what they do, the role, how they – what they do in relation to special crisis situation for example in the Ukraine.

>> GIACOMO MAZZONE: Thank you very much. Glad to be here with you.

The question is very simple answer to the question that Nicola Frank raised about why it was created. You remember some years ago the European Union signed an agreement with platforms, digital platforms that was based on a self-commitment and this self-commitment was by the platform that they will counter among others hate speech, terrorism, also disinformation.

This self-commitment, the main problem with the self-commitment, it was that there were no measurements possible, there was no reference, no point to really calculate if the commitment was fulfilled or not. You know the self-commitment code was revised just recently, a few days ago.

The European Commission funded an independent initiative, it is called EDMO, and you can see from the slides.

The EDMO that’s now presented in many countries in Europe, practically everywhere, it is a network of organizations created by consortium based in Florence, and the consortium, the main partners, they are the University, technology centre, the fact checkers. This initial group is gathered then with a group of experts and I’m part of the advisor – in the advisory board and they are working closely with eight national hubs that are based in France, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Luxembourg, Ireland, et cetera, et cetera.

It has been set up, other agencies, they’re doing the same job on the national basis. This covers practically most of the linguistic network of Europe. This will be implemented in the next year to come in order to cover all languages of Europe.

This, the work of EDMO mainly consists of trying to make measurable what was not measurable at the beginning and tried to fix criteria for checking if the collaboration of the platform is effective or not.

There is a mix of various initiative, one is the fact checking, this is probably the most visible. There is a gathering of around 30 different fact checkers organization around Europe that covers practically all countries as you see from the map. These fact checkers are working together through a collaborative platform that’s called Truly Media. You can see the page of the Truly Media collaborative tool work.

This is tool work where all of the fact checkers that are belonging to the network, the network is open also to others so it can be expanded. They can put something that they believe is risky, wrong, suspicious, and then they can collect information from the others of the network.

What is important, it is that this tool that’s designed by the technology centre, the public service broadcaster, it is made also for checking disinformation across borders. A main problem that we have in Europe, you monitor the English speaking disinformation and probably you miss what’s made in other languages across Europe. While in this tool you reconnect all of the dots, all of the different language, they’re reconnected to the sources, you see that the sources are the same for many languages in many countries and you see the trends, when you know what bots are doing the disinformation, you see what kind of disinformation I’m doing. Then you start the fact checking activity.

The fact checking activity, it proves to be important and efficient and in the short span of life of EDMO, we have a year and a few months of activity. The end of the pandemic, and as Rachel had correctly explained on the global scale among the European Union based, and the second, the Ukrainian war. What we decided to do at EDMO, it was immediately we start a few days after the war in Ukraine, the special operation as somebody would say.

We started to monitor what was happening all across Europe. The interest of the exercise that we’re gathering information coming from all of the countries, you can see which are the trends, which are the sources, who are spreading the disinformation. There is a monitoring exercise that published weekly reports and this weekly report and the monthly reports that are available on the website, where the most important trends are detected and shown.

For instance, this is a slide from the last week, biweekly report about Ukraine, published on 10th of June. You see that these are trends regarding the disinformation about the war, we have the false information about the war on Ukraine, refugee, you have the fake information on the military representation of the field, the Ukrainian leadership, you have the discrediting of the media report in Ukraine, it was important and controversial, this reporting.

What we have seen, what we have seen through this monitoring exercise, it is the same bots promoting the narratives are working in a different way and they promote other false narratives that apparently they’re not related with. For instance, in Germany, we have seen an intensification from the same bots about the narrative that European Union will stop production of cars. Who is originating that thinks that this will create a mistrust towards the European Union and in a car-based culture like the German one.

In Poland, the narrative has been about LGBT, saying that European Union means supporting LGBT, et cetera, et cetera, in other country, southern countries, it is about refugees. You see that the narratives, they converge to a UNIX code, not only disinformation about the war but creating mistrust and mistrust in media, mistrust in government, mistrust in any kind of authority. We see that this is part of a unique discourse and narrative and now we have the tools to better understand how it works. Based on that, the next code of conduct of the European Union, it could be more effective but more than that, we hope to be more effective when the DSA, DMA are put in place, tools that will allow citizens all over Europe to become part directly in this campaign and trying to counter the trends of the digital platforms when they’re going in the wrong direction.

Thank you. There is many other things still to say. I think that we have to stop here for the sake of time. Thank you.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Thank you. It is very interesting and frightening at the same time to see how they combine narratives to create mistrust. This is something maybe Eric Scherer can talk about now, countering the mistrust and you’re an expert in this, you’re a journalist, working in different press organizations and in France and abroad – mistrust – yeah, yeah, how does public service media deal with this and there is also one aspect, of course, that disinformation has contributed to polarization, which in turn has created a lot of address against journalist, not only public service journalists and generally, this is an issue that we have heard about from Rachel already.

That is something that is just very disturbing, there is always the risk of self-censorship of people that are frightened. Yeah, where do we go from there? What can public service offer in this context?

>> ERIC SCHERER: Hello. Yes, thank you. All talking as a media journalist and on behalf of the media, especially from a public media side. I truly believe that the battle against disinformation begins with journalists’ freedom and safety. This is today a huge concern everywhere. Therefore, this pose as big risk to democracy. As you know, never before have citizens been so inundated with information, but never has disinformation threatened democracy so much.

Let me give you some example we encounter in the last few years.

I think we all agree, I have shown today, yesterday, the past day, that the quality of our information sphere seems to have degraded considerably.

We’re facing increasing popularism – not popularism, it is all over Europe we’re facing increasing polarization and we come back on this. We’re facing distrust from the citizen, distrust with the media. We also have a lot on our shoulder. I think that the journalism elitism, it is coming very often from a white, dominant social class has played a role. We are facing war now in Europe, censorships, gangs, drug cartels, violence from society. We are facing conspirations, organized movement, state disinformation, we have talked about this today, fake news, and a phenomena that’s very concerning.

We are facing the irresponsibly of the social networks and we can come back on this. I don’t think that the work of journalists is to clean the stables of Facebook and YouTube. We’re facing street demonstration where a group are under attack in the streets.

We are facing online harassment, especially female journalists. Had is a big problem.

Last but not least we also are facing problems inside our own organization where the pressure is high, where sometimes the media problem is growing, and at the same time, you know, you see dozens and dozens and thousands of journalists have lost their jobs in the last few years.

Worse, the last annual report from the Rutgers institute show that there is also a news fatigue among the public and among the audience. How to make sure – how to make possible for us to share the same reality that we are all seeing to our audience. I want to emphasize, the public service media has absolutely crucial, key role to play in the stories. With COVID, with the war in Ukraine, we have seen a strong movement back towards professional and verified news coming from PSM, the public service media.

This is an encouraging movement.

This week A study showed even British teenagers are trusting the BBC more than any other sources, including social networks. This is another encouraging sign.

On the same side, at the same time, sorry, I believe that never have we journalists in public broadcasting needed so much to confront our practices, our own practices and our own mission with a variety of the coming world. Please remember that we journalists, we didn’t see any – many important things coming. We haven’t seen very well the climate crisis coming and in front, the yellow – the yellow vest movement, the British and American and France are calling so nice Brexit not a shortcoming. We have our own mistakes.

What I believe we have to try, it is to try to remain a beacon, a reference in the noise, a reference space to help guide this debate, we have to remain on the fundamental, to be based on our strengths, to be much more attentive and to listen much more to our audience and to work closer together. This is the last part of what we believe inside now, that more cooperation is needed.

We cannot do that on our own.

More cooperation, not less is required to navigate this path forward to the crisis that we’re now facing.

International trust and cooperation are in short supply and this is the only way out of all of the intertwined crisis. Inside of the European Broadcast Union, the biggest union, the biggest media union in the world, we have decided and we have begun to accelerate the pace of cooperation. After all, with more than 40,000 journalists, we have the biggest world newsroom. So far, they don’t work too much together.

Let me share with you some recent initiatives we took and we’re trying to put in place together.

We are engaged in a stronger cooperation on the war in Ukraine in exchanging much more video content. This is not a small way, never before in the history, in the 70 years of history of the EBU have we exchanged so much content on this event.

Of course, we have to strongly support our Ukrainian colleagues that are doing a fantastic job and in terrible circumstances.

We’re beginning to examine how the newsroom, the reporters send in Ukraine, the war reporter, they can index some content to be used later for possible war crime evidence.

We are already beginning to develop a common digital offer in Europe called the European perspective based on the latest digital tools. We are very proud to have used AI and recommendation technology to open the windows while so many others are trying to close the window for our audience.

We are trying to reinforce the investigative journalist network because investigation is a key part of public service media. You don’t see a lot of private sector media doing this job.

We are trying to build something very new, very I would say audacious and new ways to try to build a public service algorithm based on PSM editorial value and we will show more I hope in the next few months.

Obviously we have to develop a much more transverse future among covering the climate crisis and we’re working together on this.

We obviously have to work more on the digital mindset and on Zoom, it is not at the required level today. We have to develop a new – you mentioned before, a digital, a much bigger digital literacy to share with audiences because the audience has taken our production and distribution tool, very often they know how to use it, but very often they don’t know and we as professionals, we can help.

Last but not least, we believe that we can develop a journalist safety campaign and we’re increasingly, because as mentioned in the beginning, we’re increasingly seeing evidence from online threats, harassment, the last actual physical violence.

This year, next year, we focus to highlight the extent of the threats to the safety of all journalists, and by extension, the risks they pose to media freedom and democratic society.

Thank you.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Thank you, Erich.

You presented fruits and ideas for cooperation.

On the basis of that, I and all of the other contributions of this panel, of course, today, I open the floor for questions and comments.

I can see we have one comment from the room.

Please, you have the floor.

>> Thank you. I’m a bit surprised to hear conspiracy theory again. There is no social part. The theory of bots being automated AI agents to influence social media has been debunked by researchers and there has been no single social bot identified. The so-called botometer is just pure nonsense.

I’m really surprised that you, representing the truth, fighting against fake news are putting this in front of us that has been debunked already for some years. I’m wondering why you’re doing it. It is wrong. There are no social bots. You mention it. This is a real issue here that we have fake news on all levels, that we have fake news from governments, governments saying one thing, saying that something is fake new, then the next day they confirm it. It is fake news in journalism, we have fake new, of course, in social media, the real important thing is, not to spread fake news when you fight fake news.

Thank you.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Thank you for the comment? Who wants to reply? We heard about the different elements of fake new, of course. It was mentioned, what happened also with regards to restricting media freedoms sometimes and that some governments want to decide what fake news is or what it is not, or disinformation for that matter, maybe this is a question really addressed to Giacomo Mazzone. All right. We can also continue with other questions and take them together. Okay. Please. A question here also in the room.

>> Mine is very unrelated to that.

Thank you for your talk.

I’m part of an organization, students against pseudoscience and I was wondering, there is a large amount of will from Civil Society as well to really make a change with tackling disinformation, how – what can we do to help and you mentioned lots of different projects and initiatives going on and other ways that we can get involved through organizations like mine or just as an individual person.

>> NICOLA FRANK: That’s a very good proposal.

Thank you for that.

We come back to this as well.

Now here another question – there is also a question from maybe online.

Please. Please.

>> MATTHIAS KETTEMANN: Not so much a question, but rather my willingness to answer regarding the bot related comment.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Go ahead. That’s fine.

>> MATTHIAS KETTEMANN: Fantastic. What research – what the public sometimes conflates is social bots, which are a niche phenomenon, if at all, and the use of automated tools to amplify disinformation, which do exist. We know that. Right.

That is why platforms have developed a number of tools to fight the automated amplification of disinformation.

The question, of course, we have to be really careful in how we communicate about the things that we know and the things we don’t know about how disinformation travels and who is responsible for that. We have to be careful not to violate the trust that’s put into science by society. It is something that those that will promote disinformation, they would appreciate that. People with less trust. We have to be careful in how we communicate what we know and don’t know.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Thank you. The mistrust in science, scientific research, it was an issue, also with regard to COVID, we have seen it a lot.

>> ERIC SCHERER: To answer the second question, we need the students, young people, a key part of the solution will come from the young agents and we as media, maybe as old media, we should give the key of all media more to the young agents. If we don’t do that, we’ll lose a huge part of our society, in your country, your community, it is welcome.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Let’s take a question again from the floor here please.

>> There was an interesting transcription mistake a minute ago, it was described as the European body casting Union, it is interesting because of the contrast. Actually, what’s happening on the internet, what is probably the underlying problem of journalism, it is indeed that body casting, nothing to do with the EBU, but body casting has been the actual paradigm. Humans are thrown at the new, selectively, rather than the other way around. So the targeting mechanisms, they are there to deliver certain people with certain ready-made beliefs to certain news. So that the advertising is going to be at least superficially more effective and the same paradigm is used for this, it is very difficult to find because it is so selective.

Now, as this is also the paradigm that actually led to the breakdown of advertising income, because of the advertising, it would be based on the individual rather than actually the site, there is a question of whether parties with an interest in some form of traditional advertising could actually try to promote the standard of strictly content, not personalized advertising. I suspect actually that in advertising, advertisers would actually sometimes prefer to have a medium that they’re not forced into personalized advertising, that’s maybe good in the short run but in the long run, the advertiser risks losing the very audience because they don’t own their audience themselves.

>> URSKA UMEK: The previous format, it was not perfectly working. Mass media, we were doing news and advertising, now we’re on another kind of path, I think it is – we’re becoming precision media and then the advertising industry is trying to be as precise as they can this is a tricky point. we believe, I mentioned it before, we’re trying to build a public service media ongoing where we’ll mix two things, hopefully three things different. The first is the editorial expertise that we have as human professional, as the media human professional, we will mix that and resolve the values, and we have that with the capacity of the machines, and we have to mix and to add to this the power of the network, of our friends that’s coming from the social networks.

It is a tripod of expertise between human, machine, France, very difficult to achieve but we will work on it.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Giacomo Mazzone, you want to take that.

>> GIACOMO MAZZONE: I want to come back to the first question, probably there is a need for a complement of information.

What I said probably was not correctly interpreted. What I mean, it is that the evidence, that the evidence is on the website, you can download the material whenever you want, it is that the same sources of disinformation, we’re dealing with different kind of narratives, all bringing to the same concept, that you cannot trust anybody. This is the main messages that is arriving. This arrives from certain sources, of course, that you can arrive until a certain point. you don’t have access to the last nine, so you cannot see exactly from where this starts. You can see one amplifies and the bots are exactly this, amplifying the message, trying to bring to the big masses.

We can sideline and discuss more in detail this, I can put you in contact with people dealing with this research. What’s important, it is that we’re finally collecting information based on massive data, what EDMO will do soon, from last week, we made an agreement with the platforms that we’ll know through the mediation of EDMO, to researchers from all over Europe to access in realtime to their databases. At the moment, what we’re doing, inferring from the outside, it can be done from the inside if they play the game, we’ll see if they play the game.

Once if this is possible, soon I think, the next EuroDIG we’ll see the results, then we can be more precise and better analyze.

The problem will remain the same. The problem is, the main problem is not debunking and fact checking, as correctly said before by Eric Scherer, the mess is the mechanism of the social media, it is divisive, polarizing, and it works better as much as there is division and contrast within society. This is a structure problem that needs to be addressed. DSA, DMA, the European Union trying to address, we like to put in place mechanisms that are not self-regulation mechanisms but are binding mechanisms through the law and through enforcement. We will see if it will work.

What is important, that we’re checking data that will be relevant for decision making process in this sense.

I hope that this answered the question.

Thank you.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Thank you. I see there is an online reaction or question.

>> NADIA TJAHJA: That was the only one.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Okay. We’ll take the last question from the room here. Go ahead.

>> I’m part of the YOUthDIG this year. My question is related to fact checking and flagging misinformation.

You mostly talk about debunking and correcting misinformation which some research says is not really that affective and there are suggestions of verifying accurate information. What is your take on that? Is that considered? Thank you.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Who wants to answer?


>> RACHEL POLLACK: Thank you. I would like to come back to the question on advertising.

Yeah, maybe to say on this, with the fact checking initiatives that I cited with coronavirus fact alliance, there is as you pointed out some questions about the effectiveness of fact checking, once people have already seen the information is it too late, does it reinforce their existing view, this is my observation, not a UNESCO at the same time but with the war on Ukraine, the United States government came out, prebunked and released some of the intelligence of what would happen and that apparently was quite effective and it turned public opinion, what would happen, there is a reason to believe.

The other thing, the platforms often work with trusted flaggers, fact checker, ESO, journalists, and so if they flag content as being hate speech, disinformation, then the platforms remove it, they use techniques as the representative of the Council of Europe, down ranking, putting a warning label, that’s actually an action that will affect how many people see the posts, how it is spread and so it is maybe not the fact check alone but then it is what happens after that and how many viewer also then see it. I think there is still a lot of value and maybe that also connects with the question about debunking pseudoscience and so that could be one way through joining the fact checking alliance, there are questions with the platforms on how transparent they are with respect to respected flagger, even knowing who they are, how they’re selected, monitored, I think hopefully through the DSA that will be clarified. I would touch on the question about personal advertising. I think that’s reflected in the research that we did with the economist that showed that ad revenue for print had dropped by half in the last five years. There are a lot of questions about is this an extinction moment for media with COVID-19, there was fear that media especially local media would just not be able to survive. There were many lay-offs, closures of some media organizations, but then at the same time a recognition and the importance of true and reliable information. Everything that was said by EBU, about the efforts, UNESCO very much supports, we have put forward an idea of journalism as a public good that serves the good of the public for democracy, for peace, and that’s founded on three pillars. One of them is media viability, the economic side of the news media, another is media and information literacy and the third, transparency of the internet platforms. All of those things are needed to ensure that we have the vibrant media sector, especially public sector, the public service media that’s able to face the challenges that we have today.

Thank you very much.

>> NICOLA FRANK: The last question, two of our members of the panel need to go, they have to catch a flight. You still want to ask the question? Go ahead, quickly. Then maybe we can give the floor to Urska Umek again, you haven’t spoken so much. Go ahead.

>> Thank you. This is Fabio from Youth IGF.

I’m concerned about traditional media is losing the attention again now with the COVID pandemic and also unfortunately still nowadays and I think one main issues, at least I’m experiencing it, we have some kind of a repetitive message in the traditional media, the headline, the same thing, again and again, and it is not disinformation but it is still factually true and it is like people, they may lose interest in actually following the stories. I think there actually lies a danger, you have the applications where you mindlessly go through them, you may not fact check what’s going on and even if you say most people know, this is not most reliable and they will take this misinformation with them and unconsciously maybe process it where the attention goes away from daily, traditional television programmes and that’s all of the people, for young people, they don’t do that anymore, we’re more on this social media platforms and to come back to the point, it is a bit of a problem that the media is centralizing, I appreciate the cooperation, but that there is not more investigative journalism and more individualized information that brings more diversity and not just Human Rights and everything, but also competitiveness.

That’s it.

>> NICOLA FRANK: I think it was more of a statement than a question I understand.

Well taken.

A lot of points which I think we would agree with.

Now, as I said, Giacomo Mazzone and Eric Scherer have to leave unfortunately to catch a train.

We’re also running late. I would give the floor maybe to Urska Umek who hasn’t spoken so much if she wants a last comment and Mattias Kettemann for that matter also if you want to add anything. Please.

>> URSKA UMEK: Yes. Thank you very much.

Thank you, everyone.

Perhaps I’ll just continue where the last participant ended which indeed was not so much of a question. I would say that as a lot of people have said, disinformation, it is something that cannot be tamed simply by legal or any other type of measures uniquely. This means that we will need to think of a variety, disinformation, it is multifaceted and we need to think variety of counter measures and we have heard of a few of them. I think that legal measures will be important. I think that some regulatory oversight will be important in the future. We have tried with self-regulation and it hasn’t really yielded much result but think that there are two other points where we’ll have to really reinforce our investments and that’s, of course, indeed to have more interesting, more sustainable journalism and also to have much more informed citizenry than we do now and we have to invest in digital literacy as well. In that sense, I would say that obviously public service media has a mission and it has been fulfilling that mission formidably in the two big crisis that we have been discussing today and also journalism has also in the past history been supported by all kinds of schemes and time has come for these schemes to sort of be revived and for us to acknowledge that perhaps as a public good as Rachel has said, worthy of having certain investments also by states for example.

>> NICOLA FRANK: Thank you. Mattias Kettemann, did you want to –

>> MATTHIAS KETTEMANN: Just to add one thing to the questioner.

In the interest of the development, a lot of the phenomena you mentioned, you have the Rutgers news study, a beautifully conceived, professionally done study related to changes in news consumption over the 20 plus years and I think 50 countries, you will find them online and track a lot of the phenomena that you have just alluded to and basically the internet is becoming more important in terms of media and consumption of news media and distrust, it is rising, but young people are interested in good quality information which is a good news for the future.

More on that. Check out the study.

(No audio via Zoom)