I have had another op-ed published by Democratic Audit UK on the coronavirus crisis. I discuss the early findings from research conducted by Pew Research Center and Ofcom investigating how people respond to misinformation and disinformation about the virus shared on social media. Despite some signs people are factchecking using official sources, I argue that we must not be complacent in our efforts to counter false information about the pandemic. Thanks to Alice Park for her help publishing this piece. It can be accessed here
I have written a post for Democratic Audit on the spread of coronavirus ‘fake news’ over the past few months. I discuss how false stories about COVID-19 ‘cures’ can have deadly consequences, as seen in Iran where hundreds of people died after drinking methanol in the mistaken belief it would protect them from the virus. While conspiracy theories about the virus being a ‘biological weapon’ have emerged online, their impact should not be exaggerated. Instead, we should focus on the misinformation spread by political leaders such as Donald Trump, which is more likely to have an impact on the behaviour of citizens.
Thanks to Alice Park and the fantastic DA team for their help in publishing this. The post can be found here
Yesterday I was interviewed by Toby Foster on BBC Radio Sheffield about the ‘fake news’ circulating online about coronavirus. We spoke about some of the ways people can identify false information on social media and the role of politicians in spreading misinformation about the virus. Thanks to Toby, Kat, Katie from BBC Radio Sheffield and Victoria Wood for making it happen.
You can listen back to the interview here (beginning at 3:10:38)
I was recently interviewed for an article in Newsweek that discussed recent research suggesting that people who held delusional views were more likely to believe false news stories shared on social media. Thanks to Kashmira Gander and Hannah Postles for their help with this.
The article can be accessed here
I have published a piece on Democratic Audit UK that explores efforts to tackle mis-and disinformation in Northern Ireland. In the article, I explore whether the contextual factors associated with information disorder, such as declining trust in media and political institutions, are present in the ‘post-conflict’ society. Drawing on my research on the 2014 and 2015 Ardoyne parade disputes, and my recent submission to the UK DCMS Fake News inquiry, I explore several examples of how journalists have debunked rumours and disinformation spread on social media about contentious parades and protests. I argue that the survival of an independent and free press within Northern Ireland is a pre-requisite for reducing the pollution of its information ecosystem.
The article can be accessed here
The University of Sheffield have issued a press release covering my recent work on mis-and disinformation in Northern Ireland. This draws on my recent submission to the UK House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s Fake News inquiry, which argued that local journalists and politicians had a key role to play in countering ‘fake news’ shared via social media in Northern Ireland. Some selected quotes from the release are below:
Dr Reilly said: “While citizens played a role in sharing tweets that corrected rumours, mis-and disinformation shared on social media during these incidents, it is clear that professional journalists have a critical role to play in factchecking such claims and amplifying corrections and debunks.”
Other key points from Dr Reilly’s submission to the Fake News inquiy relate to the terminology used by politicians and the news media to describe such activity. He argues that the term ‘fake news’ fails to capture the complexities of how false information is created and shared via social media.
Dr Reilly added: “Fake news has become something of a ‘floating signifier’ – a term that can be weaponised by political groups to discredit news coverage that they disagree with. It also fails to capture the nuances of a spectrum of activity on social media that might be broadly defined as ‘false information;’ This ranges from the relatively benign behaviour of parody social media accounts that poke fun at our politicians to the more malevolent and sinister use of ‘troll farms’ to manufacture news with the intention of sowing confusion and disunity within democracies.”
My written submission to the Fake News Enquiry, entitled ‘Fake news, mis-and disinformation in Northern Ireland,’ has been published by the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport Committee.
In the submission, I draw on my 17 years of research into digital media and conflict transformation in Northern Ireland to discuss how social media has been used to share mis-and disinformation during contentious episodes, such as the union flag protests and the Ardoyne parade dispute. The submission can be viewed here