Combatting information disorder in Nepal: Fact-checking and digital literacy should go hand in hand

fake news information disorder
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International Fact-Checking Day is observed on April 2 by fact-checkers all over the world. The day serves as a reminder of the critical role fact-checkers play in keeping people informed. It is also a time to reflect on the importance of accurate information in our complex world, where separating fact from fiction has become increasingly difficult.

In recent years, in Nepal as well as in almost every part of the world, social media platforms have played a significant role in spreading misinformation, which can have serious consequences, such as inciting violence or harming public health as experienced during the Covid pandemic. Combatting information disorder is a challenge. The problem has been exacerbated by the proliferation of social media, the monetisation of online content, and algorithms that prioritise engagement, which require strengthened fact-checking and digital literacy as the most effective solutions parallelly.

Prebunking in fact-checking

The monetisation of social media platforms is one of the most difficult challenges in combating information disorder. These platforms are designed to keep our attention for as long as possible, and the algorithms that reward engagement and amplification frequently favour sensational, emotionally charged content over factual, accurate journalism. This encourages disinformation and misinformation, which are more appealing than credible news. False news is easy to spread, but producing well-researched stories takes time.

Prebunking can assist in combatting misinformation. The idea is that by presenting accurate information before misinformation spreads, we can prevent information disorder from taking hold in the first place. However, some individuals and organisations actively engage in disinformation, intentionally misinforming and manipulating the public with their skills and resources.

Promoting digital literacy

Digital literacy can be a powerful tool in the fight against information disorder. With so much information available, it can be difficult to sift through and identify reliable sources. Critical thinking, source evaluation, and fact-checking skills are required for navigating the information landscape. The ability to effectively evaluate and use information in a digital environment is critical today.

As we struggle with information overload, digital literacy is more important than ever. The overwhelming amount of data means that people are exposed to a huge amount of information, much of which is false or misleading. Digital literacy skills can help people navigate this data flood and identify trustworthy sources of information.

Journalists’ role

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In today’s world of misinformation and fake news, it is more important than ever to reclaim the journalistic essence of verification and transparency. The primary mission of journalism is to provide the public with accurate, timely, and relevant information. However, to do so, journalists must adopt a rigorous and transparent reporting approach that includes fact-checking and verification.

One of the most important aspects of this approach is that you tell readers not only what you know, but also how you know it and what you do not. This includes being open about your sources, methods, and any limitations or uncertainties in the information you present. It also involves admitting when you do not have all the answers or when there are competing viewpoints.

In a complex and rapidly changing world filled with information disorders, it is also critical to publish explainers that assist readers in making sense of the issues and events that shape their lives. These explainers can assist in demystifying complex topics and providing context and background information that readers may find difficult to find on their own. Explainers can help readers to bridge the gap between expert knowledge and public understanding, which is a much-needed public service journalism.

Despite these efforts, trust in journalism is at an all-time low. Addressing readers’ concerns is critical to reestablishing trust by controlling information disorder. This entails being open and honest about mistakes and making necessary corrections as soon as possible. It also entails interacting with readers and responding to their comments and concerns. Journalists can earn the trust of their audience and contribute to an accurate and reliable information ecosystem by being transparent and accountable.

As we celebrate International Fact-Checking Day, it is important to remember that combatting information disorder requires a collective effort. Platforms must prioritise accurate reporting over engagement metrics, individuals must actively seek out trustworthy sources and fact-check information before sharing it, and governments must prioritise media literacy education and regulation of disinformation campaigns. 

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Adhikari is the editor of Nepal Check, a bilingual fact-checking website in Nepal.

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