Disinformation at the heart of media debates in Seine

Health is one of the favorite fields of disinformation. The scientific community expected it to grow with “The first pandemic of the 21st century, a new agent for which there was no treatment, and the first world containment in the history of mankind”, summarized the geneticist Axel Kahn, in one of the introductory lectures of the 3rd festival Media in Seine, organized by Radio France and The echoes.

→ READ. Journalism questions the treatment of science

“There are two really new elements, he continued, in the public reaction to this pandemic: the intensity and violence of the reactions, and the importance of politicizing the debates “. Fear of being ill, anxiety about losing a job, government trial and error, scientific controversy in the public arena, mistrust of the media, proliferation “Beliefs considered as facts” on social networks… are all causes that were discussed during the round tables.

Disinformation vectors

Two studies challenge. According to that of l‘Reuters Institute Oxford University’s journalism study examining the perceived value of journalism, a majority of Britons have educated themselves and therefore protected themselves from the virus, but people say “Vulnerable to disinformation”, car “They no longer follow the information and do not trust the media”, has fallen from 6% to 15% since the start of the epidemic.

However, questioned on the main vector of disinformation, 1,400 journalists solicited by theInternational Center for Journalists (ICFJ), cited first “citizens” who use social networks like Facebook (49%), followed by political figures (46%), trolls (43%), propagandists, government sources, celebrities … and last the influence of foreign agents …

Limites du fact-checking

In another roundtable, journalists specializing in fact-checking noted the global wave of disinformation on the epidemic, fueled by “By the same doubts and the same questions” in all countries and the difficulty sometimes in dealing with them due to the complexity of the subjects (in relation to a format, which awaits a decided question) or the complicated search for “Sources which are unanimous” in the midst of scientific controversy.

For Yves Goudin, virologist and CNRS research director, the scientific method is not soluble in media speed, because “It supposes to understand that the scientific controversy within a community of researchers is part of the scientific process”. Now, displayed in broad daylight, it appears to the public as ” a weakness “.

New tools

One of the problems for the “media expert” Benoît Raphaël, who developed tool combining intelligence and artificial intelligence (Flint) who sorts “Information guaranteed without fake news, comes from infobesity generated by algorithms on platforms that stimulate dopamine rather than other parts of the brain.

“Infobesity creates diseases like fake news, the impossibility of debating, the loss of confidence in the media”, adds Aude Favre, journalist and YouTuber (Aude WTFake), who launched “An anti-fake-news citizen editorial staff” of 1,300 people. One way, according to her, to“Be in conversation with the public and show behind the scenes of journalist work ».

Global thinking

Another initiative: Newsguard, a network of around thirty journalists who investigate sites to assess their level of reliability in a substantiated manner. “We are investigating their sources, their economic model, the way they are financed and the interests that drive them”, explains Chine Labée, one of these members.

At the international level, the reflection is also advancing with the Forum on Information and Democracy, led by international experts, and initiated by Reporters Without Borders. Its first report offers governments 250 recommendations to fight online disinformation.


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