Positive narratives to beat disinformation

A rich debate on the “disinformation phenomenon” took place last Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 December in Varese, where the Joint Research Centre (JRC) organised a participatory workshop on the topic.

For two days, more than twenty representatives of EU Institutions, prestigious research labs, private companies and organisations sit together and engaged in tackling the circulation of false and inaccurate information – to discuss current existing solutions to the issue and elaborate on a possible common approach.

Vitalba Crivello was invited to present the ESMH mission: to combat disinformation in science, explaining what our approach is and what has been done so far.  The dense programme included 6 thematic panel sessions and 1 closing brainstorming exercise.

On Monday 9 the event started with “success stories of fighting disinformation”, discussing the importance of offering positive narratives, instead of simply reacting to deny the circulation of false information, in the context of protecting political elections from its dangerous impact.

The following session was entitled “roots of disinformation”, focusing on the role of design thinking, empowering citizens and evidence-informed policy making in contrasting the erosion of trust in experts. Vitalba Crivello took the floor here and underlined that this is particularly true in science communication and that is why STOA created the ESMH last year. The Hub deals with tackling disinformation not only via empowering journalists and science communicators to report on sound science, offering to them training and networking opportunities, but also regularly publishing informative articles on different aspects of disinformation. Additionally, the ESMH looks at the ongoing scientific research on the disinformation phenomenon and promotes knowledge sharing of evidence-base results and relevant data when available.

The next panels were devoted to “The role of emotion in disinfo narratives”, “Findings and technology from research projects”, “Tools and analysis to tackle disinformation” and “Coping strategies”. It was particularly interesting to observe the distinction between a “de-bunking” strategy (the role of fact-checkers) and the so-called “pre-bunking strategy” based on the built of critical thinking, media and information literacy.

All thematic panel sessions were extremely lively and interactive as the workshop participants engaged in all topics via questions to the speakers and inputs for further reflections. In this spirit, the afternoon of Tuesday 10 took the shape of a practical exercise and a wrap-up tour de table for future joint initiatives and follow up.

To wrap-up the workshop, a list a keywords that represent different elements, possible solutions and strategy to defeat disinformation was set up. There was also agreement upon the need to keep on acting at different intervention levels (operational and strategic, via practical tools of via policy, etc etc) to get some successful results in the near future. A repository of all information shared during the workshop will be created by the JRC colleagues who organised the event and a follow up of the initiative is already planned for next year.

pdf_icon ESMH slides at Varese workshop

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