In the first episode of our podcast series, The Truth Matters: A Guide to Misinformation, we spent time understanding the nature of the problem, and looked at how media literacy has a role to play in combating it. In the second, we learned how to talk to friends who are going down the conspiracy rabbit hole.
In this, the third episode, we look at how journalism has a role to play in all this, with some excellent Irish journalists at the forefront. We begin with Ireland's newest star, Donie O'Sullivan. The Kerry native has been reporting for CNN on the rise of misinformation for years and, famously, was there in Washington DC when the Capitol Siege took place on 6 January, earlier this year.
He spoke to us about how, in his view, the ineffective actions of the big social platforms allowed misinformation to spread and thrive. Donie's reporting isn't just on the online impact of all this, of course.
He's spent lots of time going to Trump rallies and QAnon events to understand what's been happening on the ground, and how a substantial portion of America has succumbed to misinformation. He tells us about the abuse that often comes the way of journalists who are simply trying to do their job.
That leads us to a detailed discussion about the actual work of journalists with two great examples. Christine Bohan is the deputy editor of TheJournal.ie and leads their fact checking efforts. Joe Galvin is a journalist who specialises in social media verification. The careers of both have involved studying misinformation online and debunking it.
Fact-checking is often suggested as a key solution to the problem of misinformation so this in-depth discussion is really useful. Christine talks about how fact-checkers decide what they should focus on each day and Joe goes into detail about the globalised nature of the problem.
Both, along with Donie, clearly feel that more actions by platforms is necessary. Platforms will point to their content moderation efforts - where they label or take down content that exceeds their trust and safety policies. And we go into that with the platforms in episode four.
But to close out this episode, we wanted to hear from Jillian C York, a free speech activist and author of Silicon Values.
While many of us want to see the platforms take more action, Jillian points to examples of platforms going too far and accidentally or unwilfully taking down legitimate posts. Should a policy around excessive nudity take down images of breasts, for example? Does it depend on the context? If so, is one image related to breast cancer a legitimate post that should be kept up and another one not that should be taken down?
These are really tricky questions and Jillian helps us understand the possibility for unintended consequences as a result of platforms acting too fast or with too much vigour.
We hope this episode helps you understand a little more about all the context surrounding what is a very complicated set of issues regarding misinformation.
At this point you might be thinking all hope is lost! But we hope you stick around for the next episode because in it we'll talk in more detail about the potential solutions that could help us in combatting the scourge of misinformation.