A special issue has just been released Ibero-American Journal of Science, Technology, and Society, From OEI, dedicated to journalism and scientific propaganda in the age of misinformation. Pandemic chose the theme in 2019 long before it became necessary at this point, so it is not surprising that articles are modulated by current circumstances without prejudice to a broader perspective. This volume is coordinated by Carlos Elias, chair of the Jean Monet UE Chair at Carlos III University in Madrid, Disneyforming, and Fake News.
For over a year, our social life has been largely based on social communication, including networks that flow all kinds of information, without scientific support. It is important to highlight the efforts of professionals to bring to us quality information (such as their ethical duty) supported by scientists from various fields, which highlights the complexity of the pandemic. Television channels are full of epidemiologists, virologists, public health doctors, psychologists, mathematicians, economists, sociologists, and often specialists in anything that fills us with ess hangs about everything and nothing.
The World Health Organization warns of the dangers of this “infodemia” characterized by an avalanche of information affecting the mental balance of families, especially children and the elderly. More dangerous, however, is the proliferation of information that we cannot determine whether is right or wrong. This is very easy to happen, especially when we are confronted with a new and changing disease, which accelerates the fear of the unknown, and when that fear is associated with other ideas, i.e. social crisis, loss or unknown future.
A study conducted by MIT from Twitter shows that fake news comes out faster than real news because it has all the ingredients to get it. The investigation is based on 126,000 stories / information published between 2006 and 2017, and the fake news provoked fear, hatred, surprise, and emotionally powerful, while the response to the real ones was one of sadness, joy, and hope. In addition, as people well know and as Antonio Alico puts it, “In order for the lies to be safe / deep, / you have to bring them into the mix / anything really.” False news is credible, responds to demands and often appears wrapped in rigor, evidence (mostly false), and credibility certificates.
That is why misinformation is so dangerous and requires so much attention from us. On the one hand, it is based on the general crisis of confidence in institutions, and on the other hand, it appears to be an anti-system discourse that responds to growing frustrations in crisis phases. That is why it is so important to learn to communicate science, not only for the traditional reasons we have always demanded for the democratization of knowledge, but for our very existence to depend on strict, attractive and effective disclosure. Not to mention the many interests lurking behind the bad news. But that’s not the only problem. It is also important to promote a science that is socially relevant and contributes to the common good.
Portugal Director of the Organization of Ibero-American States