Nordic residents must get better at managing disinformation

16.09.20 | News
Media- och informationskunnighet
Maskot/Ritzau Scanpix
Adverts for useless face masks, reports of fabricated cases, and tips on dubious treatment methods – the amount of fake news and disinformation during the coronavirus pandemic has increased to such an extent that the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of an information epidemic. The Nordic Council Committee for Knowledge and Culture has proposed that a joint policy be drawn up for efforts relating to media and information awareness.

Thanks to digitalisation and social media, the use and impact of disinformation has exploded over the past twenty years. It is usually the biggest news events that see the widest spread of rumours and misleading information, as many people look for answers to their questions. This was at the heart of the committee proposal, which was discussed at Tuesday’s digital September meeting.

“It’s never been more important to be able to distinguish between real and made-up news, and we need to strengthen the exchange of Nordic experience in this field. Processing all the information we’re confronted with on a daily basis is incredibly challenging, which is why the committee is proposing measures to increase media and information awareness among those living in the Nordic Region. We have to do better at evaluating and analysing our flow of information,” says the chair of the committee Kjell-Arne Ottosson.

Increased awareness is the way forwards

One of the most effective ways to combat disinformation is to increase people’s awareness and help them to critique sources. To varying degrees, the Nordic governments have worked to support media and information awareness, which lays a solid foundation for the effective exchange of experiences that can bolster the region as a whole. The focus of several of the measures has been teaching children and young people to critique sources. This focus is shifting to older people, who are are now some of the most vulnerable to disinformation on social media.

The committee for knowledge and culture proposes the appointment of a Nordic working group for the drafting of a policy for education on media and information awareness for all age groups. This could, for example, involve a survey of the spread of disinformation in the Nordic Region, or the identifying of initiatives aimed at combating disinformation. In addition, it is proposed that the working group prepare an overall strategy for a joint Nordic initiative.

A threat to democracy

This is not the first time that fake news has been on the agenda of Nordic co-operation. A Nordic expert meeting took place in 2017, which resulted in the report “Fighting Fakes – The Nordic Way”. Fake news in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic was discussed at this year’s digital summer meetings, and disinformation was also highlighted in Iceland’s programme for its presidency of the Nordic Council as a threat to society and fundamental democratic values.

“Safeguarding democracy and combating disinformation are key priorities for Iceland in 2020. We want to demonstrate what the Nordic countries can do together in the fight against fake news. For example, can we strengthen the position of credible media outlets, and can we increase awareness among those living in the Nordic Region?” asks the President of the Nordic Council Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir.