IRNA Managing Director: Disinformation is not a new phenomenon

Baku, October 27, AZERTAC

“Disinformation is not a new phenomenon. It is a word that was coined in late 1950s and came into widespread use during the 1970s. Since then, the nature and purpose of false information has been the same, while the big difference lies in the way false information is disseminated,” said Managing Director of the Iranian IRNA News Agency Seyyed Zia Hashemi as he addressed the breakout session “Disinformation policy: a threat to stability in the modern world” as part of the 6th Baku International Humanitarian Forum.

“Newspapers used to rule the world of information for almost a century until radio became highly popular during the World War II. Then in 1970s, television attracted a big part of their audience.

Both the Soviet Union and the United States had special mechanisms to counter what they believed was the other side’s disinformation policy. Other countries, organizations and even ordinary people have also dealt with disinformation from time to time. Perpetrators normally make use of the most popular types of media in any period of time. At our time, online media is the most popular.

Among online media, social networks have a few distinctive features. The first feature is their availability anytime anywhere. This quality along with the fact that news on social networks is short and easy to understand, helped it gain the upper hand over many other types of media.

But social networks have another unique quality that’s worth giving careful attention to. A social networking channel’s influence grows not by offering better objective analysis, but through causing more sensation. The more a message in a social network is republished, the more acceptable it is!” he said.

“A recent study found that falsehood is diffused significantly faster and deeper than truth in all categories of information. The study showed that false political news reached more people faster and went deeper into their networks than any other category of false information. Researchers believe while true news are anticipated by the audience and create comparatively little excitement, false news is more novel and usually causes surprise, fear and disgust among the audience and provokes them to republish it.

Not only does the advantage of emotion over evidence create chaos and confusion in political affairs, but it also leads to the increase of misbehavior and unlawful acts like cyber-bullying and that’s the fact reported by several studies around the world.

Advancement of the society’s media knowledge is a critical step towards protecting people against the damaging effects of disinformation. Of course, knowledge is best acquired at a young age. In Iranian high-schools, a subject named “Thinking and Media Literacy” is taught to all students. The course focuses on issues concerning media and society, techniques of creating a media message, knowing the audience, media and lifestyle, and so on.

Besides educational programs, professional media also need to take on additional responsibility to minimize the negative effects of disinformation. Responsible media and news agencies should indentify hot topics in society and fill the informational gap that might set the scene for any kind of rumor. They are expected to do so both on their traditional platforms and on modern social media.

The challenges created by fake news and disinformation will probably grow as media technology advances constantly. Naturally, professional media will have to bear even more responsibility to tackle these challenges,” IRNA Managing Director Hashemi concluded.

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