Reliable Information in an Age of Infodemics

On the occasion of the 50th St. Gallen Symposium, a cross-generational group of participants explored ways to address emerging challenges of disinformation online.

The ways news and information are created, distributed and consumed have changed significantly over the last decade. Besides traditional, curated print media, TV, radio, and online information sources, social media platforms and non-traditional web offerings play an ever-increasing role. While optimistic voices view this as a “democratisation” of the production and distribution of online information, it requires a stronger awareness for the validity of the information we absorb and a good understanding of mechanics of personalised information content.

Large disinformation campaigns and polarised filter bubbles – intensified by personalisation algorithms – have become challenges for fact-based decision-making in democracies. At the 50th St. Gallen Symposium, the Forum on Information and Democracy, Boston Consulting Group and the St. Gallen Symposium hosted an Interactive Session to explore ways of providing users with access to reliable and trustworthy information on social media platforms.

Nighat Dad, Founder and Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan and vice-chair of the Forum set the scene for participants. She emphasised the need to design digital platforms and personalization algorithms that follow quality and safety standards by design and to hold digital platforms accountable for it. She also pointed to the International Declaration on Information and Democracy, which underscores the imperative to counter infodemics. The declaration calls on online service providers to implement mechanisms that favour the visibility of reliable, authentic and traceable information based on transparency, editorial independence, the use of verification methods and compliance with professional norms.

Through a design-thinking process developed for the St. Gallen Symposium’s Interactive Sessions, and supported by a team of BCG facilitators, a cross-generational group of participants from the realms of media, business, science and public policy then moved from framing the problem towards ideating solutions. Participants emphasised the need to educate users in order to enhance media literacy and critical thinking, and to reward platforms for reliable and accurate information, instead of censoring content online. They also called for a clear labelling of sponsored content on platforms, and to make quality journalism more independent of the mere number of clicks, by introducing time spent on a site as a more helpful metric.

Graphic recorder Markus Engelberger captured the workshop’s results, which will support the Forum on Information and Democracy and other stakeholders to further drive forward its mission of countering disinformation in the digital sphere.

If you would like to engage with the St. Gallen Symposium on these and other challenges, including in the format of an Interactive Session, please reach out to felix.ruediger@symposium.org.

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