Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Eerste Hulp Bij Twijfel

Project Description

Almost all Flemish people in the VRT survey say they have already been confronted with disinformation. There is a certain awareness among media users that they themselves can do something against the spread of fake news. Most of them look for ways to deal with it: by consulting other news sources, looking for factchecks or asking people around them if they believe it. But often they choose strategies that are not foolproof, e.g. spreading a fake news anyway because it is funny. Many people also do nothing at all. The broad group of doubting Flemish people are looking for guidance in a world where false information is increasingly difficult to distinguish from the real thing. They need a reliable guide – professional news media, which still enjoy a relatively high level of trust in Flanders , and who can show them the way to separate fact from fiction. These journalists in turn need new technology to make the efforts they are already making against disinformation even more focused and tailored to the doubting majority and thus more impactful. Research, too, so that the choices they have to make can be made on an evidence-based basis, so that money and valuable working time are put to optimal use in the fight against disinformation.

In this project, we focus very specifically on the large group of doubting Flemish people who want to know what is real and what is not, but who feel that it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish fact from fiction (“What can you still believe today?”). The ultimate goal is to make them digitally resilient against disinformation, and increase their digital resilience so they can participate in a strong, open and free social debate based on shared facts. By this we mean the knowledge, attitudes and skills citizens need to deal with the threats of the digital news environment while seizing and exploiting the opportunities the digital news environment offers them (such as knowing and being able to look up reliable information or fact check).

By getting a better and faster grip on the topics that people are uncertain about, we can proactively deploy resources to combat disinformation even before it has a chance to become widely disseminated. This approach should work like a vaccine against erroneous reports, and this very concretely through (1) new and accessible tools and (2) innovative formats that increase the resilience of journalists and citizens and give them a foothold in the fight against disinformation, supported in this by (3) user research to help overcome doubt.