How would you describe the mission and expertise of your organization in the field of media literacy/ critical thinking/ fact checking/ countering disinformation?
Since 2018, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has been monitoring election campaigns. In 2018, we analysed the social media channels of candidates running in local elections in Poland’s ten biggest cities, focusing primarily on xenophobic statements, disinformation and hate speech against migrants. During subsequent campaigns in 2019, before European and Polish Parliament elections, we focused on fake news and disinformation campaigns around migration, refugee and LGBT+ issues, shared by candidates for deputies. The decision to focus on fake news and disinformation was based on the previous monitoring in 2018, which revealed difficulties in verifying questionable content. Therefore, we decided also to be more active in the field of education about fake news and disinformation. Among others, we created a Facebook group named “True or fake news” (Prawda czy fake news) which aim is to share knowledge about the phenomena of disinformation, track, share and refute fake news. The group focuses mainly on fake news related to migration and LGBT issues.
What are the main resources developed by your organization you’d be willing to share? (e.g. reports, analyses, scripts, educational materials, video clips, webinars… Please share the links.)
Report “Fake news and disinformation in election campaigns in Poland in 2019” (Fake news i dezinformacja w kampaniach wyborczych w Polsce w 2019 roku): https://www.hfhr.pl/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Fake-newsy-i-dezinformacja_final.pdf , report “Migrants, refugees and xenophobia in election campaign 2018 – a monitoring report” (“Migranci, uchodźcy i ksenofobia w kampanii wyborczej 2018 – raport z monitoring): https://www.hfhr.pl/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Raport-monitoring-mowy-nienawi%C5%9Bci-w-kampanii-wyborczej.pdf; Facebook group “True or fake news” (Prawda czy fake news): https://www.facebook.com/groups/558574684669610/.
Which are, in your opinion, the three biggest current challenges related to countering disinformation in your country?
Political polarisation and polarisation of media that lead to the lack of exchange of the views and opinions, lack of knowledge (especially when it comes to the relatively new issue in the Polish public debate – like migration), general anty-experts and anty-science trends (anty-vaccines movement).
Could you name three solutions that you implemented or else want to recommend as an advice how to counter disinformation, strengthen societies’ critical thinking skills and build civil resilience to disinformation?
Education, including critical thinking and fact-checking skills into schools curriculum. Using legal measures to punish spreading of the fake news repetitively.
What are the top three events or dates you have witnessed this year that have caused an intensification of disinformation activities?
- election campaign.
In your opinion, which future three dates/events are likely to bring about the intensification of disinformation activities in 2020-2021?
- Still coronavirus,
- especially when vaccines will be develped.
What are the prevailing disinformation narratives you have observed in the media space this year.
There were many fake news related to coronavirus – e.g. false treatment, “coronavirus is fake – there is no virus at all”, 5G technology which spread coronaviruses. In Poland, disinformation related to LGBT – sexual orientation and gender identity as a result of “propaganda”, relation between homosexuality and pedophilia.
Have you been relying on any fact-checking tools? If yes, please describe them or share the links.
We check information using several, including official sources, data from experts, ect. We check the credibility of the source of information. When it comes to photos, we use inverted pics search.
Would you like to highlight any of the disinformation cases you have witnessed/ discovered/ debunked?
The issue of coronavirus was an especially interesting case. Apart from ridiculous information “coronavirus is fake – there is no virus at all”, there was a lot of misinformation which shows clearly how difficult it is to rely on even serious media.
In your opinion, who are the best performing actors – in your country, as well as in the EU – playing crucial roles in the field of media literacy today and why?
Finland is indicated as a role model, putting attention to education and critical thinking already at schools.
The interview was conducted on June 29, 2020.