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Citizens and institutions must join forces against fake news

Slowly but surely, fake news are becoming more and more frequent in citizens’ everyday lives. The internet gives us a palette of information nowadays, but not all of it is credible and true. The most important question asked by any reader is how to become immune against disinformation, fake news, and manipulation.

Skopje, 22 January 2020 (MIA) – Slowly but surely, fake news are becoming more and more frequent in citizens’ everyday lives. The internet gives us a palette of information nowadays, but not all of it is credible and true. The most important question asked by any reader is how to become immune against disinformation, fake news, and manipulation.

Darko Buldioski, a digital marketing expert from the New Media Agency, tells MIA that fake news is a complex issue resulting from a series of developments. They’re nothing new, according to him, and he adds that it has existed years before. However, fake news is more accessible and quickly spread today.

“What we see today is a hyper-expansion of fake news and misinformation, because communications channels have become much more accessible, fast, and dynamic, allowing for fake news to spread faster.

It’s fascinating because the traditional power, also known as the information guardians, traditional media that acted as a shield which protected us from fake news, doesn’t have that role anymore, or it’s been severely diminished,” Buldioski says.

According to him, the attention span we dedicate to analyzing a piece of information in a situation where we are exposed to hundreds of thousands of headlines and images is quite low. This is the reason, he believes, it’s so easy to spread fake news, even unintentionally.

Disinformation is the tool of propaganda

Buldioski says that disinformation has always been and will always be a tool of propaganda. The difference is disinformation is easily accessible to the public, and thanks to the internet, it’s so much easier for us to witness the misuse of these techniques globally.

“Fake news is a form of news where there is a piece of information that’s entirely made up from scratch.

Disinformation is a series of information that is correct, but they have a certain agenda where they use only part of the overall communication in a given situation, a part that is factually incorrect, thereby changing the communication entirely,” Buldioski adds.

In regards to the creators of fake news, Buldioski says there are different entities with different interests.

“Essentially, fake news is being created by people from Veles, Kumanovo, other regions in North Macedonia and the Balkans, even Russians, who are interested in influencing global politics.

Today, we witness a bunch of different surveys and news stories showing us that there is no political agenda, party or group in many different countries and continents that hasn’t reached for a media capacity allowing them to leak misinformation,” Buldioski says.

Non-selective institution transparency as a way to fight fake news

Bojan Kordalov, PR specialist, tells MIA that all factors must be involved in the fight against fake news in order to achieve the best effect.

According to him, this fight should start from the institutions because “things always start where there is the most power and opportunity to change things”. He adds that citizens are equally responsible.

“If we want to battle fake news as institutions, which belong to all of us, then we must have true non-selective transparency.

In the era of digitization, we should make sure that as much information as possible is available online,” Kordalov says, adding that if information is readily available at all times and places, then dealing with fake news will be much easier.

Institutions, and more specifically, PR sectors must build the skills necessary to deal with fake news.

“Institutions must be ready to answer certain information in real time. Sometimes, this information is placed into the public on purpose, sometimes it’s done ignorantly, but it can quickly spread panic and fear over social media, and it can create theses based on falsehoods,” Kordalov believes.

Darko Buldioski believes that institutions should create a framework which will allow professional media and journalists to become more prominent.

“Institutions should provide an environment which favors quality, which will then be recognized and able to exist more independently, because we are aware that the motivations behind creating fake news and misinformation are different. Sometimes, it’s a direct financial interest, sometimes it’s political, and sometimes it’s coincidental manipulation,” Buldioski clarifies.

Fact-checking and credibility checking

Buldioski claims that we still cannot expect certain institutions or individuals to find a magic solution to fix all these issues.

Kordalov says that, in order to detect fake news and avoid manipulation, we mustn’t evade responsibility and we must employ critical thinking as citizens. As people, we should invest in ourselves and our media literacy first and foremost in order to come to our own conclusions.

However, citizens often react by running away from the situation in this dynamic era full of disinformation.

“More and more citizens opt out of the situation, feeling uncomfortable in the shooting range between political parties and blaming one another for sharing fake news. This is a form of detox, per se.

There is nothing wrong with this, but in the long run it’ll only serve to bring apathy and ignorance about day-to-day politics, which will only serve as fertile soil for growing more fake news and misinformation,” Kordalov says.

Buldioski points out that it takes education and self-improvement, stressing the difficulty of achieving this in a dynamic like the one of today.

“There is a skill set we should learn in order to detect disinformation at least a little bit, such as source-checking, asking for relevant sources, the time of the publication, the credibility of the media itself, whether or not the information exists in more than one place, whether or not it’s confirmed, who the primary source is, how many other news sources have published this information, etc,” Buldioski says.

Good communication programs in pre-election campaigns required to take responsibility for threats and insults

When it comes to pre-election campaign expectations, Kordalov says that parties should set up their campaigns on healthy foundations, based on communication, so that citizens aren’t led towards apathy but towards a union.

Campaigns should be based on debate and differing opinions instead of slander, insults and fake news.

Kordalov clarifies that politicians still employ an old school way of measuring strength, or who’s stronger, louder, more big-mouthed. This isn’t communication fit for the 21st century.

Kordalov also believes that insults, threats, and accusations towards journalists are impermissible and highly inappropriate if we’re trying to become a democratic society.

He adds that we should stand in the way of any insult, slander, or any career endangerment of journalists.

“The problem is that this kind of thing has been happening for decades. These things jeopardize the rights, opportunities and careers of journalists and media workers as a whole.

This is impermissible, because it feels like we’re forgetting that the degree of democracy of a country is measured according to how media, journalists, and media liberty are treated.”

Buldioski says that hate speech, insults and slander are highly regulated by the law in our country and many others, so the sources of this kind of communication are liable.

He says that the fact that insults aren’t seen as something too heinous and that society has been tolerating them for years creates an atmosphere where individuals believe they’re a normal and acceptable level of communication.

“Media is crucial, especially today, in the fight against news. The media is what will contribute, like it has been until now, towards the distinction between truths and lies. I expect this to become even more prominent in the future,” Kordalov says.

Bisera Trajkovska

Translator: Dragana Knežević

Photo: Darko Popov

Video: Aslan Vishko, Emil Jordanovski


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