The need for fresh approaches to learning
The evidence base supporting the efficacy of different strategies to address misinformation is, we believe, weak. This applies globally but is especially the case in low-income settings. There is an extraordinary proliferation of energy, imagination, and expertise being brought to bear to tackle the challenges in all their diversity and complexity. The fact remains that proven strategies are scarce. To the extent that clear strategies are identified and evidence built, the information and communication landscape is so fast moving that these strategies may quickly prove redundant.
Outlined here is just a sample of the kinds of strategies that BBC Media Action adopts, but throughout, the emphasis has been on designing strategies through strong research, adapting them to context, and learning from implementation and from the work of others.
There remains a structural problem, however, in that there are few effective and sufficiently well-structured spaces for learning what works and what does not work in tackling misinformation and disinformation, especially among practitioners focused on addressing these challenges. There are multiple conferences and convenings, but these are poor at building a collective and cumulative evidence base capable of enabling rapid adaptation of strategy.
BBC Media Action has proposed the creation of a collaborative Media Development Lab designed to turbocharge learning of what works (and what doesn’t) in tackling misinformation and supporting independent public interest media. The lab would be designed to focus on geographic and political contexts where access to trustworthy information and debate often matter most — where media markets are weakest, resources most scarce, conflict most likely and most devastating, and democracy and the prospects for democracy most fragile. It would be designed to blend and provide an organising framework for practitioner experience, practitioner research, and academic research and expertise to best enable strategic adaptation and impact of efforts to tackle misinformation. Currently, there is little in the way of rigourous collective lesson learning and investigation into what works and what does not work in these approaches and often not a great deal of collective confidence that some of the most commonly established strategies (such as media literacy) will prove impactful at scale.
BBC Media Action has an extensive network of researchers on the ground from the countries in which it works, generating real-time analysis and learning of what works and what does not work, and some other organisations have similar capacities. There is a strong appetite to share learning and certainly also to learn from the best of what others are doing. A media development lab would be a useful and effective way of generating such learning.
- 1 BBC Media Action Nationally Representative Survey, December 2019, asked of social media users (n=l,181). While as much data as possible is published externally on BBC Media Action's data portal (bbcmediaaction.org/dataportal), the research is principally focused on ensuring maximum possible project impact and, for resourcing reasons, is not always externally available.
- 2 SBBC Editorial Guidelines, www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/guidelines.
- 3 For example, due impartiality does not mean giving credence to voices that deny man made climate change.
- 4 ‘Understanding media habits and information needs of Russian speakers in the Baltics’, BBC Media Action Research Summary, April 2018.
- 5 We are conscious that the term trustworthy is contentious, difficult to define, and challenging to measure. We are guided by BBC editorial guidelines in supporting trustworthy content but realise that trustworthy content can be produced that is partisan or is inconsistent with these guidelines in other ways. For the purposes of this chapter, the focus is on news, information, and platforms for public debate that are fact based, serve the public interest, and are found trustworthy by a cross section of the public.
- 6 www.bbc.co.uk/news/reality_check.
- 7 See, for example, Soul City Evaluation Impact Evaluation, Series 4, Violence Against Women, 2001.
- 8 See, for example, Staub E, ‘The challenging road to reconciliation in Rwanda: societal processes, interventions and their evaluation’, Journal of Social and Political Psychology 2(l):505—517 October 2014.
‘A multidimensional approach to disinformation: Report of the independent high-level group on fake news and online disinformation’, EU Directorate General for Communication Networks, Content and Technology’ 2018.
Bhandari K, Bhattarai I) and Deane J (2016) ‘Accountability', nation and society: the role of media in the remaking of Nepal’, BBC Media Action Policy Briefing.
Ferguson G (27 July 2018), ‘Helping people spot fake news in Sierra Leone’, BBC Media Action blog.
Deane J (2013) ‘Fragile states: the role of information and communication’, BBC Media Action Policy Briefing.
Deane J and Такі M (2020) ‘Enabling media markets to work for democracy: Feasibility study for an international fund for public interest media’, BBC Media Action.
Staub E (October 2014) ‘The challenging road to reconciliation in Rwanda: societal processes, interventions and their evaluation’, Journal of Social and Political Psychology 2(1): 505—517.