The internet is an indispensable tool. Information, news and entertainment are available at our fingertips. But along with the convenience comes a proliferation of misinformation, fake local news sites, hate speech and dangerous disinformation leaving users struggling to discern the truth. Research cited by Harvard’s Nieman Lab notes that reminding people to think about accuracy before they share information on social media can make a difference. The studies focused specifically on COVID-19-related misinformation, borrowing ideas from the ways we fight political misinformation. Being able to assess the validity of information is a vital skill for an informed citizenry in our democracy. But how can Americans successfully navigate through it all and identify what is fact and what is fiction?
In light of a growing movement to pressure social platforms such as Facebook to take a stronger stance on moderating hate speech and misinformation, WGBH has decided that a constructive contribution we can make is to double down on our reporting about hate speech, disinformation and media manipulation on social media and other digital platforms. We have curated this resource page to combat disinformation and to encourage media literacy, and have launched some new programs to help our audiences.
Finding trusted information is critically important as we head into the November elections, particularly for young, new voters. According to Pew Research Center, one-in-ten eligible voters in the 2020 electorate is part of Generation Z, aged 18-23. So, in early July, WGBH News launched Internet Expert, a social TV game show designed to engage Gen Z voters in the democratic process and to empower them with knowledge and tools they need to vote with confidence, learning how to spot misinformation or deception in political ads. Student journalist Malick Mercier hosts the series and new ten-minute-episodes are available on YouTube and IGTV every other Wednesday until the November election. The project is part of The Poynter Institute’s VidSpark program, a video storytelling lab for local newsrooms funded by the Google News Initiative.
Next Tuesday, July 28, our investigative journalism series FRONTLINE will air United States of Conspiracy, a documentary looking at how trafficking in conspiracy theories went from the fringes of U.S. politics into the White House. It examines the alliance of conspiracy entrepreneur Alex Jones, then Trump advisor Roger Stone and their role in the battle over truth and lies. Earlier this year, FRONTLINE was the first U.S. public media organization to join the Trust Project, a global consortium of news organizations that implement global standards of transparency, called Trust Indicators, to help audiences evaluate the quality, integrity and reliability of journalism, and slow the spread of false and misleading news and amplify reputable journalism. And our WORLD Channel has launched six episodes of Pulling the Thread, a new series streaming now that unravels some of America’s most popular conspiracy theories to reveal the emotional, cognitive and social forces that lead rational people to believe irrational things. The series pushes us to think about HOW we think—why conspiracy theories are so alluring, how we get caught in their web, how they undermine trust and civil society—and what we can do about it.
With less than four months before a pivotal presidential election, the stakes of keeping the public accurately informed have never been higher. WGBH is committed to our responsibility as a media organization to deliver honest news and support all individuals in being well-informed citizens.
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