The next legislative primary elections in Argentina will take place on September 12. They will be the first ones to be held during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a critical economic situation, and with the two main political forces entering a phase of radicalisation of their speeches.
Amidst a campaign with an austere budget, it is likely that many resources will be poured into social networks, where, as it is well known, fake news is spreading rampantly. Tweets taken out of context, fallacious editing of videos, a distorted reading of data — anything is valid when you want to deliberately influence public opinion.
The main digital platforms, such as Facebook and Google, have been working for years to combat fake news with automated (and human) mechanisms controlling the distribution of content and closing anonymous accounts — the famous “trolls.” Nonetheless, the dynamics of the networks themselves and users’ desire to share viral content means that fake news travels at the speed of light. The denial of erroneous information always arrives late and never ends up repairing the damage it caused.
The economic crisis digital media are going through after a year of a health crisis worsens the scenario.
What solution did we find at VíaPaís, a native digital local news media that has been in the Argentine market for less than six years?
First, we participated in the “Reverso” project, the consortium formed by media from all over the country (print, digital, radio, and TV). The goal is to work together to disseminate content highlighting the disinformation circulating during the electoral process. This project is led by Chequeado, the main fact-checking media in Argentina, which is annually certified by the International Fact-Checking Network.
Additionally, we continue training our newsroom. We actively participated in the training cycle, “Evolution 2021,” which was created by FOPEA (the Argentine Journalism Forum) together with the Facebook Journalism Project. This is where leaders of the world’s main media lecture on the digital transformation of business, advertising models, audiences, product development, and more.
In addition, we have already confirmed a training cycle with the Google News Initiative for Latin America, so that our journalists can be trained in the tools provided by this platform to verify information.
Partnering with other media, ongoing training, and learning from the experiences of other newsrooms are the keys for facing the main political event of the year and strengthening the commitment with our readers. We know the damage that fake news can cause to the reputation of media, and we are committed to not letting this happen at VíaPaís.