“Objectif Désinfox” : the truth according to the media

Some twenty French newspapers have joined forces with Agence France Presse and Google France to define what is true and what is false during elections. A new version of Pravda (Truth, in Russian) ?

On December 6, Agence France Presse (AFP) and Google France announced the creation of a program to fight against disinformation called “Objectif Désinfox”. At the beginning of February 2022, about twenty major media* joined this project aiming at fighting against fake news during the election period.
Thus, all the editorial offices involved will pool their “fact-checks”, in other words, their means of verifying the news. The media involved in this “coalition” will have at their disposal digital tools useful for cross-checking online information (Label Fact Check, Google Image Search, Trends, PinPoint, Invid-WeVerify, Politoscope developed by the CNRS, and the tweet counter and other ad-hoc tools proposed by Visibrain). In addition, AFP will deliver its #elections2022 fact-check “feed” to partner media free of charge.
The intention is commendable.

The real and the fake

Information has always been a formidable weapon, especially in critical times. Information is disinformation, manipulation, intoxication, propaganda, indoctrination… In this respect, the role of the mass media is crucial. The media must say what is “true” and denounce false information aiming at destabilizing a man or a woman, a camp, a party, a country.
Fake news, as we say today, has always existed, especially during wars. But they have taken a global dimension with the development of digital media and social networks.
This was particularly evident during the U.S. elections, when both sides accused the other of using fake news. The outgoing president Donald Trump would have pronounced 30,573 lies according to the Washington Post. That is, on average, more than twenty per day! American intelligence services have also accused Moscow of hacking, intrusions and intoxication during the 2016 American elections.
What happens in the United States, happens everywhere. Elections are a sensitive moment in a country’s democracy. Hence the interest in controlling journalistic information.

Black, white, grey…

But how to distinguish the true from the false knowing that the world is neither all white nor all black and that the grey zone is largely in the majority? The naked truth does not exist, as we know. As for the lie, it often has the trappings of sincerity, even authenticity. Especially in politics, where what is true one day may not be true the next.
Let’s remember that both AFP and Google are already associated within the Trusted News Initiative (NTI) whose objective, with its partners, is to “tackle dangerous misinformation on vaccines”.
Reuters is one of TNI’s partners. Reuters has taken the lead in the crusade against anti-vaccine misinformation and to restore “its truth” about vaccines. NTI is responsible for censoring, on all platforms, all articles that would question this “truth”.
However, the international news agency Reuters was chaired, from 2012 to 2020, by a certain James C. Smith who is also, since June 26, 2014 a member of the board of directors of Pfizer Inc. And one of the first investors. Note that Mr. Smith is also a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum and many international advisory boards.
Let’s never forget that the biggest newspaper of the Soviet era was called Pravda, which means Truth.

*20 Minutes, AFP, Arte, BFMTV, Euronews, Fact & Furious, FactoScope, France24, Konbini, LCI, M6, Mediacités, Phosphore, Rue89 Bordeaux, Rue89 Strasbourg, RFI, Radio France Maghreb 2, RMC, RTL, TF1 and TV5 Monde.
** TNI’s partners? These are the major news agencies that supply all the world’s newsrooms: Agence France Presse (AFP), Associated Presser (AP), Reuters, but also the BBC, CBC/Radio-Canada, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Facebook, Financial Times, First Draft, Google/YouTube, The Hindu, Microsoft, Reuters, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Twitter and The Washington Post

What media literacy and digital citizenship ?