The fight against disinformation is one of the greatest challenges of modern society. To take stock of the situation is the Italian Digital Media Observatory (IDMO) which brought together the main players in the sector, in the event "IDMO 365: reshaping infosphere", to discuss trends in the spread of "fake news", strategies to counter them and new technologies and new tools for data analysis. With an eye to the future, when artificial intelligence and metaverse will enter more and more forcefully into everyone's life.

The IDMO, coordinated by Director Gianni Riotta and Prof. Livia de Giovanni, is one of the 8 selected hubs (representing 14 EU and EEA countries) that work closely with the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) in the fight against disinformation and fake news at European level.


Idmo, Reshaping Infosphere

Marco Minniti (Leonardo Med-Or Foundation): war and disinformation

The debate was opened by Marco Minniti, President of the Leonardo Med-Or Foundation, who indicated a key date: February 24 last year, the day of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

According to the former Interior Minister, the war in Ukraine "has a lot to do with disinformation", because "disinformation is a crucial element of wars" and, even more so, in a war that will be long, "asymmetric activities such as disinformation" develop. It is above all in the dualism between "an autocracy" that violates international rules and threatens the freedom of a people and an alliance of democracy that the danger of "disinformation" lurks.

In this context, the duration of the conflict is also important. Putin said in an interview with the Financial Times that Western democracies are corroded from within and will fall. We just have to wait and time can be an element of destabilization of democracies. Because in democracies you vote" - this year in Poland and Spain, next for the European Parliament and in the United States". And in this space, even temporal, fake news can affect democracies, said Minniti who stressed the importance of controlling disinformation.

Finally, man. Faced with the fake news theme, we are led to think that it is necessary to strengthen technological capabilities, focus everything on artificial intelligence, fight "technology" with "technology", but at the end of everything "driving is up to man, even the most refined machine cannot think of driving man, because it lacks feeling", concludes the former Minister of the Interior.

Alberto Barachini: a regulatory framework for the digital world

In addition to the news on the war in Ukraine, those on the pandemic have also been at the center of disinformation as often happens paradoxically when there is too much information. The second Censis-Ital Communications Annual Report on the good communication of the daily emergency (2022) showed that 57.7% of Italians complain of having a very or somewhat confused idea of what is happening in the war between Russia and Ukraine. 83.4% say that in the last two years they have come across fake news about the pandemic and 66.1% fake news about the war. Here, faced with the confusion of information, 45.5% of Italians turn to informal sources they trust most, but it is in these environments that false news is produced and spread through posts, likes and shares.

The Undersecretary to the Presidency of the Council with responsibility for information and publishing Alberto Barachini took stock of how the Government is dealing with the issue of disinformation.

" I don't like the term digital transition. In the field of publishing, the transition has already taken place, we are far beyond, we are in a fully digital era", explains the Undersecretary. "We must give the digital world regulatory support that has not been there so far and build a strong reputational base also in the world of journalism to rebuild the link with the citizen".

Meta, the commitment of Facebook and Instagram in the fight against fake news

When we talk about fake news we often think of social media. Angelo Mazzetti, Head of Public Policy Italy, Greece and Malta at Meta, recalled that the group's platforms were the first to implement concrete tools to prevent the spread of fake news. "Facebook, Instagram and all the products in the Meta family live on advertising and I don't know advertisers who want to associate their brand with harmful or fake content because it would make the environment unsafe," he explains. In short, users who use social media to share moments, thoughts or articles, if they do not feel free or protected, leave. Facebook has invested 20 billion dollars in the security of the platform, 45 thousand people are involved in content review.

But what are the concrete tools to fight fake news? Not all disinformation content is comparable, Mazzetti says. "One thing is the unconscious spread by a user, another thing is the organized strategy of false content that has a specific motive behind it. To each his answer. With us it is a mix of human review and technology: we operate with the removal of false, illegal or violating community standards content that can lead to an imminent risk of harm in the real world, secondly with the reduction of visibility that materializes in demonetization, the impossibility of reaping economic benefits, even with the help of 40 factcheckers. Finally, with information and digital literacy".

Rai's commitment

As part of the Idmo-Italian Digital Media Observatory project (Consortium co-funded by the European Commission and coordinated by Luiss University and Data Lab which includes Gedi Rai, Tim, Tor Vergata University, T6 Ecosystems, Newsguard, Pagella politica) for the fight against online disinformation, Rai has produced video pills to signal how to defend oneself from fake news, explains Caterina Stagno, Rai Social Manager. Broadcast on the Rai networks and on Rai Play, the contents have made more than 500 million contacts.

Among the Rai initiatives to raise awareness of the fight against fake news there was also a series of meetings in secondary schools in the form of webinars attended by Rainews 24 journalists Dario Marchetti, Celia Guimaraes, Marina Lalovic and some foreign correspondents who told the children about their experience in the field and gave useful indications to orient themselves in the world of online disinformation, to recognize fake news and avoid it.

Among the subjects involved in the fight against fake news there is also the Pagella Politica team that deals with monitoring the disinformation that exists in Italy, both quantitatively and qualitatively. The deputy director Tommaso Canetta explains which are the most "controlled" topics and what are the fake news that circulate most both in Italy and in Europe. This shows that disinformation has no barriers and that to counter it we need to join forces.