United NationsEducational, Scientific andCultural OrganizationJOURNALISM,‘FAKE NEWS’ &DISINFORMATIONHandbook for Journalism Education and TrainingUNESCO Series on Journalism Education

Published in 2018 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,7, place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP, France UNESCO 2018ISBN: 978-92-3-100281-6This publication is available in Open Access under the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO (CC-BY-SA 3.0 IGO) 3.0/igo/). By using the content of this publication, the users accept to be boundby the terms of use of the UNESCO Open Access Repository a-en).The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply theexpression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country,territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.The ideas and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors; they are not necessarily those ofUNESCO and do not commit the Organization.Editors: Cherilyn Ireton and Julie PosettiContributing Authors: Julie Posetti, Cherilyn Ireton, Claire Wardle, Hossein Derakhshan, Alice Matthews, Magda Abu-Fadil, TomTrewinnard, Fergus Bell, Alexios MantzarlisAdditional Research: Tom LawGraphic design: Mr. ClintonCover design: Mr. ClintonIllustrations: UNESCO, First Draft and PoynterTypeset: UNESCOPrinted by: UNESCOPrinted in France

Cherilyn Iretonand Julie PosettiJournalism,‘Fake News’ &DisinformationHandbook for Journalism Education and Training

TABLE OF CONTENTSForeword by Guy Berger7Introduction by Cherilyn Ireton and Julie Posetti14Using this handbook as a model curriculum by Julie Posetti26MODULE 1: Truth, trust and journalism: why it matters32by Cherilyn IretonSynopsisOutlineModule AimsLearning OutcomesModule FormatSuggested AssignmentReadingMODULE 2: Thinking about ‘information disorder’:formats of misinformation, disinformation, and mal-informationby Claire Wardle and Hossein DerakhshanSynopsisOutlineModule AimsLearning OutcomesModule FormatSuggested 51535353MODULE 3: News industry transformation: digital technology, socialplatforms and the spread of misinformation and disinformation55by Julie PosettiSynopsisOutlineModule AimsLearning OutcomesModule FormatSuggested AssignmentReading55576565666768

MODULE 4: Combatting disinformation and misinformationthrough Media and Information Literacy (MIL)by Magda Abu-FadilSynopsisOutlineModule AimsLearning OutcomesModule FormatSuggested AssignmentMaterialsReadingMODULE 5: Fact-checking 101by Alexios MantzarlisSynopsisOutlineModule aimsLearning outcomesModule FormatSuggested 3MODULE 6: Social media verification:assessing sources and visual content96by Tom Trewinnard and Fergus BellOutlineModule AimsLearning OutcomesModule FormatSuggested LE 7: Combatting online abuse:when journalists and their sources are targeted109by Julie PosettiSynopsisOutlineModule AimsLearning OutcomesModule FormatSuggested 121

FOREWORDUNESCO works to strengthen journalism education, and this publication is the latestoffering in a line of cutting-edge knowledge resources.It is part of the “Global Initiative for Excellence in Journalism Education”, which is afocus of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication(IPDC). The Initiative seeks to engage with teaching, practising and researching ofjournalism from a global perspective, including sharing international good practices.Accordingly, the current handbook seeks to serve as an internationally-relevant modelcurriculum, open to adoption or adaptation, which responds to the emerging globalproblem of disinformation that confronts societies in general, and journalism inparticular.It avoids assuming that the term ‘fake news’ has a straightforward or commonlyunderstood meaning.1 This is because ‘news’ means verifiable information in the publicinterest, and information that does not meet these standards does not deserve the labelof news. In this sense then, ‘fake news’ is an oxymoron which lends itself to underminingthe credibility of information which does indeed meet the threshold of verifiability andpublic interest – i.e. real news.To better understand the cases involving exploitative manipulation of the language andconventions of news genres, this publication treats these acts of fraud for what theyare – as a particular category of phony information within increasingly diverse forms ofdisinformation, including in entertainment formats like visual memes.In this publication, disinformation is generally used to refer to deliberate (oftenorchestrated) attempts to confuse or manipulate people through deliveringdishonest information to them. This is often combined with parallel and intersectingcommunications strategies and a suite of other tactics like hacking or compromising ofpersons. Misinformation is generally used to refer to misleading information created ordisseminated without manipulative or malicious intent. Both are problems for society,but disinformation is particularly dangerous because it is frequently organised, wellresourced, and reinforced by automated technology.1See Tandoc E; Wei Lim, Z and Ling, R. (2018). “Defining ‘Fake News’: A typology of scholarly definitions” in Digital Journalism (Taylor andFrancis) Volume 6, 2018 - Issue 2: ‘Trust, Credibility, Fake News’.This content is from: Journalism, ‘Fake News’& Disinformation. UNESCO. 2018-7-Download full book:

The purveyors of disinformation prey on the vulnerability or partisan potential ofrecipients whom they hope to enlist as amplifiers and multipliers. In this way, they seekto animate us into becoming conduits of their messages by exploiting our propensitiesto share information for a variety of reasons. A particular danger is that ‘fake news’ inthis sense is usually free – meaning that people who cannot afford to pay for qualityjournalism, or who lack access to independent public service news media, are especiallyvulnerable to both disinformation and misinformation.The spread of disinformation and misinformation is made possible largely through socialnetworks and social messaging, which begs the question of the extent of regulation andself-regulation of companies providing these services. In their character as intermediaryplatforms, rather than content creators, these businesses have to date generally beensubject to only light-touch regulation (except in the area of copyright). In the contextof growing pressures on them, however, as well as the risks to free expression posedby over-regulation, there are increased – although patchy – steps in the frame of selfregulation.2 In 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinionfocused his annual report on the issue, urging the Internet companies to learn fromself-regulation in the news media, and to better align with UN standards on the rightto impart, seek and receive information.3 Within this fast evolving ecology of measurestaken by both states and companies, there is a very significant role for journalists andnews media, which is where this publication comes in.Discerning differencesDisinformation and misinformation are both different to (quality) journalism whichcomplies with professional standards and ethics. At the same time they are alsodifferent to cases of weak journalism that falls short of its own promise. Problematicjournalism includes, for example, ongoing (and uncorrected) errors that arise from poorresearch or sloppy verification. It includes sensationalising that exaggerates for effect,and hyper-partisan selection of facts at the expense of fairness.But this not to assume an ideal of journalism that somehow transcends all embeddednarratives and points of view, with sub-standard journalism being coloured by ideology.Rather it is to signal all journalism contains narratives, and that the problem with2Manjoo, F. (2018). What Stays on Facebook and What Goes? The Social Network Cannot Answer. New York Times, 19 July, 2018. book-misinformation.html [accessed on 20/07/2018]; able-news/ [accessed on 15/07/2018]; [accessed on 15/07/2018]; atsapp-seeks-help-fake-news/ [accessed on 15/07/2018].3Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. UN Human RightsCouncil 6 April 2018. A/HRC/38/35. 096/72/PDF/G1809672.pdf?OpenElement[accessed on 20/07/2018].This content is from: Journalism, ‘Fake News’& Disinformation. UNESCO. 2018-8-Download full book:

sub-standard journalism is not the existence of narratives, but poor professionalism. This iswhy weak journalism is still not the same as disinformation or misformation.Nevertheless, poor quality journalism sometimes allows disinformation andmisinformation to originate in or leak into the real news system. But the causesand remedies for weak journalism are different to the case of disinformation andmisinformation. At the same time, it is evident that strong ethical journalism is neededas an alternative, and antidote, to the contamination of the information environmentand the spill-over effect of tarnishing of news more broadly.Today, journalists are not just bystanders watching an evolving avalanche of disinformationand misinformation. They find themselves in its pathway too4. This means that:ɒ journalism faces the risk of being drowned out by the cacophony;ɒ journalists risk being manipulated by actors who go beyond the ethicsof public relations by attempting to mislead or corrupt journalists intospreading disinformation5;ɒ journalists as communicators who work in the service of truth, including“inconvenient truths”, can find themselves becoming a target of lies, rumoursand hoaxes designed to intimidate and discredit them and their journalism,especially when their work threatens to expose those who are commissioningor committing disinformation6.In addition, journalists need to recognise that while the major arena of disinformationis social media, powerful actors today are instrumentalising ‘fake news’ concerns toclamp down on the genuine news media. New and stringent laws are scapegoatingnews institutions as if they were the originators, or lumping them into broad newregulations which restrict all communications platforms and activities indiscriminately.Such regulations also often have insufficient alignment to the international principlesrequiring that limitations on expression should be demonstrably necessary, proportionaland for legitimate purpose. Their effect, even if not always the intention, is to makegenuine news media subject to a “ministry of truth” with the power to suppressinformation for purely political reasons.In today’s context of disinformation and misinformation, the ultimate jeopardy isnot unjustifiable regulation of journalism, but that publics may come to disbelieve4Despite the threat, according to one study the newsrooms in one country lacked systems, budget and trained personnel dedicated tocombating disinformation. See: Penplusbytes. 2018. Media Perspectives on Fake News in Ghana. d 12/06/2018].5Butler, P. 2018. How journalists can avoid being manipulated by trolls seeking to spread disinformation. tion. See also Module Three of this handbook.6See Module SevenThis content is from: Journalism, ‘Fake News’& Disinformation. UNESCO. 2018-9-Download full book:

all content – including journalism. In this scenario, people are then likely to take ascredible whatever content is endorsed by their social networks, and which correspondswith their hearts – but leaves out engagement with their heads. We can already seethe negative impacts of this on public beliefs about health, science, interculturalunderstanding and the status of authentic expertise.This impact on the public is also especially concerning for elections, and to the very ideaof democracy as a human right. What disinformation seeks, particularly during a poll, isnot necessarily to convince the public to believe that its content is true, but to impacton agenda setting (on what people think is important) and to muddy the informationalwaters in order to weaken rationality factors in people’s voting choices7. Likewise, theissues of migration, climate change and others can be highly impacted by uncertaintyresulting from disinformation and misinformation.These dangers are why confronting the rise of ‘fake news’ head-on is an imperative forjournalism and journalism education. At the same time, the threats also constitute anopportunity to double down on demonstrating the value of news media. They providea chance to underline in professional practice the distinctiveness of delivering verifiableinformation and informed comment in the public interest8.What journalism needs to doIn this context, it is a time for news media to tack more closely to professionalstandards and ethics, to eschew the publishing of unchecked information, and to takea distance from information which may interest some of the public but which is not inthe public interest.This publication is therefore also a timely reminder that all news institutions, andjournalists whatever their political leanings, should avoid inadvertently and uncriticallyspreading disinformation and misinformation.