A few years ago, if you needed to gather information on a particular topic, you would go to the best encyclopedia or thinking mind near you to soak up all that wisdom. However, the arrival of the Internet and digital media changed everything. We now have a huge ocean of information around us and in many cases we are drifting away, without even having learned to swim.
We are aware of the value of information, even more so in times of a pandemic, political antagonisms, and social revolutions like those we are in the midst of. However, we are not aware of the difficulty of finding accurate and quality information on the issues that matter to us.
In this interview, we spoke with Laura Chaparro, editorial project coordinator of Maldita.es, the only media outlet in Spain specializing in fact-checking. On her site, you can find verified information about the pandemic and tools to help combat misinformation. Let’s go!
Infodemic COVID-19 in Europe: A visual analysis of disinformation
Why is it important to fight misleading information?
Anyone can believe an unfounded rumor and, when we talk about health issues like COVID-19, it has serious consequences for public health. Misinformation has generated an epidemic parallel to the health epidemic. Fear, hatred, confrontation, and polarization are the perfect recipe for unfounded rumors.
Lies and half-truths make their way through a muddled playing field and when people are afraid, they don’t know what to believe. They are locked in their homes and their mobile devices become their window to the world. Spreaders of disinformation have the perfect opportunity with this pandemic, and they have taken advantage of it.
Are we fighting hard enough? Do we have truthful information today in Europe?
More and more fact-checkers like Maldita.es are fighting, but it is not enough. Society needs to support these independent media outlets. There is truthful information in Europe but also false information; that is why fact-checkers are needed.
At Maldita.es we’ve gone from receiving 200-250 messaging queries daily about possible unfounded rumors to more than 1,500 a day at the peak of the pandemic.
What impact has COVID-19 had on digital media?
It’s been the current issue that they have covered and are still covering, even though several months have passed, with more or less specialized journalists, which has resulted in more or less rigorous information. This pandemic has shown that specialization in science and health is essential in any editorial team.
At Maldita.es, we have Maldita Ciencia (Maldita Science) and its specialized journalists who have brought rigor, expert sources, and scientific evidence to the public at times when the unfounded rumors were abundant and certainties were scarce.
What does the term “infomedia” mean?
It refers to the explosion of disinformation related to the pandemic. It is a term used by the World Health Organization that alerted us to its serious risks. In the face of the polarization that causes disinformation, especially in this infodemic, verification has to build bridges and safe corridors without lies. Safe, clear places to cling to.
You have launched the European project: “COVID-19 Infodemic: A Visual Analysis of Misinformation.” What are its goals?
The project aims to show how the pandemic has been misreported in five European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom), what common features the disinformation has had and how it evolved at the peak of the health crisis (in March and April).
Anyone can check the website https://covidinfodemiceurope.com/ on their cell phone, tablet, or PC, in any of its five languages and interactively navigate its maps, animated infographics, and timelines. In addition, the full report can also be downloaded in PDF format. The best way to support the project is to consult the website and share its results.
Why is good use of digital communication tools important?
Because it is the best way to reach more people, especially young people, who are key to preventing the spread of the coronavirus. To give you an idea of the user traffic in these months, at the peak of the pandemic, the Maldita.es website went from nearly two million unique visitors to 10 million in March and 7.5 million in May, and from 20,000 users registered to 40,000. Fact-checking has been proven to be more necessary than ever.
“We went from nearly 2 million unique visitors to 10 million in March and 8 million in April”
What has your experience been with using Genially?
It has been good, it was very well adapted to what we were looking for. The designs are very attractive and visual. Integration was very good, we haven’t had any problems adapting it to different platforms. Today you cannot conceive of a project of this kind without adapting it to the maximum number of technological tools possible.
Can you give the audience any tips or tricks to help them create projects that are this effective?
In this particular project the key has been to work in a network with teams from other countries: AFP, CORRECTIV, Pagella Politica/Facta, Maldita.es and Full Fact. To combat disinformation, it is essential to fight back with accurate information. Together we are stronger. In the specific case of web design and development, at Maldita.es we have engineers and a designer who manage the whole process, and that makes it very easy to achieve success.
We trust that this information from our colleagues at Maldita.es will be very useful to you in carrying out your communication material and projects. Learning to identify truthful and verified information is essential to forming opinions and making informed decisions. We encourage you to continue to create and share your value with your entire community.
Together we will rise stronger, and better informed!