On 1 September, the Nordic observatory for digital media and information disorders (NORDIS) network will commence efforts to identify, analyse and prevent disinformation online as part of a broader European collaboration project known as European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO).
The special responsibility of the University of Helsinki and the fact-checking service Faktabaari, the Finnish members of the network, is the development of digital information literacy. During the two-year initiation period, the Nordic network aims to consolidate and expand its operations.
To enhance digital information literacy, the discipline of media and communication studies at the University of Helsinki will carry out research in the NORDIS network under two projects funded by the Academy of Finland: a consortium which investigates communicative rights and a project which explores the power and responsibility of media platforms, as well as observations already made together with Faktabaari.
“These research projects and observations emphasise the importance of citizens’ competence: both practical digital skills and understanding the nature of tech giants, the dangers of misleading online communication and also the opportunities for participation,” says Professor Mervi Pantti from the University of Helsinki.
A new course increases understanding of disinformation
The discipline of media and communication studies will continue to conduct research on these themes and design a course in critical disinformation studies.
“The course will equip future communications specialists with the ability to analyse and understand causes, strategies and consequences of disinformation, as well as ways of preventing it,” Pantti says.
Alongside this, in the NORDIS network, Faktabaari will develop digital information literacy particularly in support of teachers and library professionals, and will also represent Finnish fact-checking expertise in the new Nordic and European network.
“This project enables us to advance the development efforts carried out by the University of Helsinki and Faktabaari to promote digital information literacy, particularly with researchers, schools and libraries,” says Mikko Salo, the founder of Faktabaari.
“We believe that digital information literacy is a new civic skill needed in the digital era,” Pantti sums up.
Combining expertise especially in social media information disorders
With the initial capital of €1.5 million awarded by the European Commission, the goal of the NORDIS network is to intensify cooperation within the framework of EDMO. NORDIS brings research under one roof as well as develops media and information literacy and fact-checking on the basis of the latest research-based knowledge. It combines the competencies of researchers, fact-checkers and media educators, especially in terms of information disorders associated with social media.
NORDIS is one of eight regional hubs operating under the EDMO network, which were selected in the summer through an open competition. Fewer than a quarter of the competing projects passed a rigorous external project assessment.
The overall objective of the NORDIS network is to serve Nordic societies by bringing to the fore the latest research-based knowledge on the spread of disinformation through online platforms and through developing fact-checking skills. “While high trust in media outlets among citizens is typical of the Nordic countries, they are not immune to disinformation either,” states Professor Anja Bechmann from Aarhus University, who heads the NORDIS network.
“In digital environments and particularly on social media, disinformation is spreading more rapidly and farther than ever before. This trend has gained momentum in the last couple of years, as social media use has continued to spread globally,” Bechmann notes. She points out that, for example, the use of Facebook is high in the Nordic countries.
Mervi Pantti, professor of media and communication studies, University of Helsinki firstname.lastname@example.org
Mikko Salo, chair, Avoin yhteiskunta ry (Faktabaari) email@example.com +358 40 556 5050
Anja Bechmann, professor, Aarhus University, director of the EDMO NORDIS consortium firstname.lastname@example.org +45 513 35138 Twitter: @nordishub & @Faktabaari )