This article shares diverse insights on the global convening series on countering disinformation, facilitated by Reos Partners and co-convened by The Oak Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF).
Between December 2021 and February 2022, Reos Partners designed and facilitated a Convening Series on Countering Disinformation, co-convened by The Oak Foundation and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). The series gathered participants from funding agencies, implementing organizations, think tanks, and research centers, and was designed to employ a systemic approach to disinformation, exploring both its impact across various thematic areas as well as the underlying causes and drivers that enable disinformation to thrive and spread.
For many participants, this was the first time coming together with stakeholders from sectors other than their own to explore the challenges of disinformation. The process helped highlight gaps in awareness about the larger disinformation ecosystem, and underscored the need for more cross-sector collaboration and a networked approach to these challenges.
Read highlights below from series presenters who offered knowledge and ideas for addressing the complex domain of disinformation.
Faculty associate, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University Research Director, Media Cloud Associate Professor, IE University, Madrid
“There is a need for cooperation in many different dimensions, but specifically collaboration across disciplines and across methods that would help us understand how to deal with mis- and disinformation. And there is a need to make this collaboration as global as possible. When we’re talking about mis- and disinformation we’re talking about phenomena that have to do with language that have to do with culture to have to do with meaning-making, with narratives. Those things are totally contextual. They’re dependent on the culture, the language.
I think we definitely need to close the application gap — that distance between the research and the use of the research. That requires a lot of translation in terms of trying to connect the things we’re doing on the research side with the things that are happening on the implementation side. When people are doing their daily jobs, you cannot expect anyone to be reading 20 academic journals a month and following the proceedings of five conferences, that’s not possible. We need to build mechanisms for reducing the complexity of research, the different trends, the different findings, the different data sources to something that is immediately usable and applicable for those people who are on the front lines.”
Sara E. Murphy
Chief Strategy Officer, The Shareholder Commons
“If we have any hope of countering disinformation, we must develop accountability systems that align free-market forces with human and ecological needs. We must challenge the status quo relationship between investors, capital markets, and sustainability by shifting investors away from a company-first investment model that drives profit maximization at the company level, to a systems-first investment approach that prioritizes value creation across the portfolio and the economy at large. We can create a level playing field for sustainable competition on which all companies can operate and people and the planet can thrive.”
International Program Director of Technology and Society, Ford Foundation
“We need technologists who understand the data, who understand the consequences, who understand the impacts in community, with very, very different backgrounds. We need to be increasing the capacity of new types of organizations that wake up every day with a public interest perspective or a civil society perspective or human rights perspective.
We have to think about how technology is touching everything. And we have to invest in the technical capacity of our core grantees and in new institutions that wake up every day and use technology.
This isn’t about tech solutionism. There will not be an app that solves this problem. There will not be a website that solves this problem. There will not be a blockchain that will solve this problem. What we actually need is civic minded technologists sitting and thinking about downstream harms and trying to prevent them and thinking about strategies and approaches to be more successful.”
Africa Project Coordinator, WITNESS
“It would be arrogant to assume that communities are not already designing, developing, and executing strategies that counter disinformation within their context. As thought leaders and implementers, we must ensure that we don’t fall into the rabbit hole where we decide what constitutes threats, harms and approaches to combating disinformation. This only breeds distrust and magnifies the impact of systemic inequalities.
The challenge we are confronting is nuanced and contextual, which indicates that one-size-fits-all and quick fixes will not address the issue. There is the need for a corresponding investment in cultural and structural change that prioritizes communities. A lot of the solutions that have been thrown at resolving misinformation and disinformation have been tech focused. The communities we work with tell us that there is a need to prioritize non tech methods in combating this threat.”
The global convening series culminated in a set of strategic insights: