Fake news potential to spread on a large scale has been unpacked in the six-month initiative of workshops, dialogue and storytelling organised by Symbiosis-School of Political Studies, Council of Europe Network with the support of the European Cultural Forum and the Council of Europe. The website www.infodemic.medialab.blog , created to host this initiative’s results contains inter alia in-depth reports from the dialogues, education material against disinformation. It also hosts nineteen stories by Ukrainian refugees, Russian exiles, humanitarian workers in the Balkans, as well as thirty interviews with nineteen experts from Ukraine, Lithuania, Turkey, Russia, Italy and Greece, testimonies of how the infodemic pandemic unfolds and is countered.
Concluding the initiative, a three-days Forum on Information Disorder During a War Infodemic has been organized by Symbiosis in collaboration with Inside Story and the Heinrich Böll Foundation Greece, on 21 to 23 September 2022 and hosted at the European Parliament Office in Athens. Academics, researchers, journalists, refugees, and representatives of civil society reflected on different aspects of the current information war surrounding the Russian invasion of Ukraine since February 2022 that has now spread across the globe.
Participants to the works of Information Disorder During a War Infodemic highlighted the organised campaigns of spreading fake news in the service of war or political aims, the challenges in objective journalistic coverage of modern wars, and broader problems of the internet age that make it difficult to combat the phenomenon. Discussions started with the Head of the European Parliament Office in Athens Konstantinos Tsoutsoplides statement that “this is another type of war which undermines our beliefs and distorts our opinions” and extended to the political and institutional failings that enable the spread of disinformation, the gradual penetration of hate speech on the internet and in the media, attempts to document propaganda and disinformation and possible strategies to combat them.
According to Symbiosis head Despina Syrri “the forum aims to discuss misinformation; how information is communicated, fragmented and mediated, and how it has produced and continues to produce wars, conflicts and crises. How disinformation is embedded in political discourse and how different actors interact: from politicians and policy makers to humanitarian workers and refugees”. She further added that the speakers were selected on the basis of “their courage to speak out and ask questions”. The Forum concluded that the battle against Information Disorder is fought on the ground, as the deliberate neglect of balance and fairness over years created a vacuum, which in times of deep crisis serves as a perfect soil and tool for disinformation.