Journalism students of the Faculty of Communication, Vilnius University had an opportunity to attend a lecture by Jessica Cecil, Project Manager of the Trusted News Initiative Project of the largest world’s broadcaster BBC about disinformation in mass media. The lecture, followed by the discussion, was a part of the project Media Literacy in the Baltics under implementation by the Faculty of Communication, VU.

Recently, abundant flow of fake news and disinformation brings huge challenges for democratic countries.

‘Society is continuously affected by disinformation about vaccination, coronavirus, various other conspiracy theories. In some countries, manipulation of information causes damage even to democratic elections. If following this kind of propaganda, people no longer know what and who to trust, the democracy itself is in danger’, said Jessica Cecil.

Responding to disinformation, mass media apply various methods to help people to discern true news from fake.

‘There is a number of various initiatives that help to verify spreading information at the national and international level. Mass media check if published facts are true, also check information sharing sources. This way, spread of fake news can be prevented. However, it is important that news investigations would be published as widely as possible – mass media all over the world need to share their experience’, explained Jessica Cecil.

The international project Project Origins developed by the BBC focuses on this task: largest global news agencies, news portals, television and radio stations closely cooperate to be able to prevent fake news from causing damage to people.

The Project Origins operates at several different levels. All mass media involved in the project share their discoveries of fake news, propaganda articles. They also follow social media, because there not only people share fake news – a number of fake news agencies or television profiles trying to deceive people and sharing fake news, spreading disinformation is growing’, Jessica Cecil talks about the initiative to bring the largest global mass media together.

It is important for mass media to share their discovered fake news among themselves. This enables not only to trace fake or true news, but also to trace the sources of fake news, people creating them, people or institutions involved. Only experience exchange can ensure development of necessary measures to help mass media all over the world to stop fake news from spreading.

‘We often hear that by overtalking about propaganda, disinformation or fake news we turn as if paranoic.  I agree that if someone believes in conspiracy theory stating that the Earth is flat, it probably makes no damage to a specific person. However, usually fake news is dangerous for people. Disinformation induces anger, xenophobia, assaults against certain groups of people.  Intended manipulation of information is killing. It is in particular relevant today, when the world is combating the coronavirus – disinformation affected people do not believe in virus, are unwilling to be vaccinated, this way causing danger not only to their own and families’ lives, but also to the welfare of the entire society’, emphasised Jessica Cecil.