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Ideas / 5 takeaways from the APAC Trusted Media Summit 2020
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APAC Trusted media summit

We recently attended the APAC Trusted Media Summit organised by First Draft, the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter and the Google News Initiative on October 1-2, 2020. In the two-day virtual summit, fact-checkers, journalists and technologists shared their experiences and insights on combating misinformation amid a pandemic. The conference platform, Hopin, was in itself something new to grasp. Sessions, breakout sessions, comments and questions in the chat box, live booths for participant organizations, interaction with hundreds of people across time zones - everything from one’s own home, made ‘virtual’ seem so real.

In this short post, we’re sharing five items that caught our attention.

Responses to COVID-19 misinformation are responses to the ills in the society as well

COVID-19 certainly posed an enormous task for fact-checkers and journalists. The Trusted Media Summit itself began with a reminder that health misinformation can have harms ranging from no harm to risk to life. However, misinformation surrounding the pandemic is not just on account of a mysterious virus. The rot runs deep as the fault lines of race and religion, mistrust, divisive politics and inadequate state capacities all powered the misinfodemic. Fact-checkers from across Asia-Pacific flagged misinformation filled with hatred towards minorities, anti-Asian sentiments and political agendas. As the task in hand has become daunting, fact-checking is more needed than ever.

Cautious but hopeful! The fact-checking world will not be caught off guard with vaccine misinformation

Fact-checkers have already countered tonnes of vaccine-related misinformation. However, letting down our guard can result in a twin infodemic from misinformation on COVID and vaccines. The vaccination drive has to heed challenges such as politicized rollout, difficulties in vaccinating different age groups and communities and  dropout risks. Amid these challenges, an infodemic can prove costly. Greater vaccine awareness, reliable information channels, and trust are crucial.

Regulations on data protection often come at the cost of freedom of expression and transparency

Governments now understand the need to tackle misinformation, but focus only on misinformation by third-parties passing the buck on misinformation stemming from governments themselves. As more and more governments adopt regulations on data protection, internet content and digital security, lack of clear definitions can raise threats to freedom of expression and harassment of journalists. When platforms and governments adopt content moderation, there is a need for greater transparency and public records of the actions taken.

Trauma and mental health issues are real

Fact-checkers and journalists are at the receiving end of online harassment and trolling. They are also exposed to disturbing and graphic content. The pandemic has only added to the moral distress, work pressure and uncertainties. For some journalists, the pandemic has become very personal as it affected journalists and their families and friends directly. While many of us have the option of turning off the news or taking a break from social media, this isn’t an option for fact-checkers. Apart from resilience strategies for individuals, organizations need legal support and training on online safety. As political pressures also mount, international networks and support are crucial.

Fact-checkers need to look out for misinformation in the digital marketing space

Misinformation keeps evolving in its tactics and forms. One heads up for the fact-check community is misinformation in the e-commerce and digital marketing space. E-commerce hoaxes, PR firms running pro and anti candidate campaigns for elections, crowdsourcing and renting Facebook accounts for running massive ad campaigns, were among the items discussed at the summit.

Note: Information presented in this blog has not been attributed to the speakers as the Summit followed the Chatham House Rule.

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