Information Disorder, Part 2: Mapping the Landscape

By Claire Wardle

Over the past eighteen months, there has been a surge of interest in trust and truth in a digital age. There have been hundreds of conferences, reports and papers on the subject. As our understanding of the space becomes more sophisticated, it’s time to recognize thirteen smaller sub-categories, so we can undertake more targeted research, and convene workshops and conferences on more clearly defined and specific topics.

Here, I suggest thirteen sub-categories where I’m seeing specific initiatives, research or natural alliances.

It’s important to note that all these sub-categories should also be seen through an international lens. It is the one overarching theme that connects all of the following.

The thirteen spaces are:

  1. AI & Manipulation: Researching the ways that AI-generated synthetic media (otherwise known as ‘deepfakes’) will impact society, and developing tools and techniques tactics for identifying and verifying these types of sophisticated manipulated visual imagery.
  2. Closed Online Spaces & Messaging Apps: Researching the patterns of disinformation on private and semi-private spaces online, as well as messaging apps.
  3. Data Harvesting, Ad Tech & Micro-targeting: Researching the connections between data collection and targeted disinformation campaigns.
  4. Fact-Checking & Verification: Investigating claims made by official sources (politicians, think tanks, journalists), and investigating information, images and videos from unofficial sources on the social web.
  5. Identification of Disinformation Content & Tactics: Monitoring, verifying and providing contextual information around specific types of disinformation and the campaigns used to amplify them.
  6. Manufactured Amplification: Understanding techniques for artificially inflating disinformation campaigns, as well as attempts to distort ‘public opinion’, as when manipulating trending topics or purchasing signatures on online petitions.
  7. Media Ecosystems: Understanding how information disorder spreads across platforms and between traditional media (TV, radio and interpersonal communication).
  8. Media Literacy: Researching and evaluating best practices for teaching digital literacy in an age of information disorder.
  9. News Credibility: Developing machine-readable indicators that ensure quality information sources are given priority in social streams and search results.
  10. Polarization: Understanding the impact of polarization on the ways in which information is used, understood and shared.
  11. Policy & Regulation: Investigating the question of ‘regulation’, and ensuring it is based on clear definitions and evidence.
  12. Reporting best practices: Researching and experimenting with best practices for publishing fact-checks or debunks, particularly investigating the concepts of the ‘tipping point’ and ‘strategic silence’ to prevent providing additional oxygen to rumours, false content and amplification tactics.
  13. Trust in Media: Research and initiatives designed to improve trust in the professional media.