It’s one of the most vexed questions of our time: what can we do about misinformation? How to deal with a world in which it spreads at the speed of light and no one seems able to stop it?
Over the past two decades the digital media giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter have grown incredibly rich dodging the question. First, they evangelised a media utopia in which users were entirely free to decide what they post and what they consume. When cracks started to appear they argued they were not really publishers and could not be held responsible.
Now, as the global COVID pandemic exacts a heartbreaking human toll, that jig is clearly up. Everyone can see that the damage of misinformation is too great. The tech giants are starting to remove content that is wrong and dangerous. They are also funding journalism. Google is even funding fact checking projects aimed at debunking misinformation about vaccines.
These developments are welcome, but are they enough? Debunking misinformation is vital, but it treats the symptoms not the disease. We also need to ensure that there is enough quality information in our media ecosystem in the first place.
We need to make high-quality and reliable information free to everyone. And we need to be creative about how we present it so it is clear and compelling. It needs to reach young people and the elderly, the disenfranchised, diverse and socially isolated.
This has been the mission of The Conversation since we launched in Melbourne in 2011. Everything we publish is written by an academic expert and is free to read, free to republish. We want to ensure that quality information reaches everyone, not just a select few. Our small passionate team is absolutely committed to it – with every passing day the need becomes clearer and our resolve only grows.
Now we need your help. Yesterday we launched our annual donations campaign. It’s the one time every year when we turn to our loyal readers and ask those who can afford to give to support our work. If you’re able make a donation please do.
And if you’re not that flush with cash there are other ways you can help. Please keep reading us, tell your friends about us, and share our work on social media and everywhere you can.
Thanks for supporting us, however you do it. The war against misinformation is going to be long and possibly gruelling. But with your help we stand a chance.