“The danger is ourselves”

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“Fighting disinformation is also everyone’s business,” he says. Ramon SalaveriaProfessor of Journalism at the University of Navarra and principal investigator on the project RRSSalud – The spread of fake health news on social networkstogether Assistant to the BBVA Research Teams. Yesterday, Professor Salaverría presented the main results of this research at the BBVA headquarters in Madrid.

Subsequently, Salaverría moderated a seminar on the Health Tricks Challenge in which two of the winners of Scientific Communication Awards CSIC-BBVA . FoundationPatricia Fernandez de LisEditor-in-Chief of Science at El País, and Ignacio Lopez Gonia microbiologist at the University of Navarra and a member of the research team for the RRSSalud-Project, and Coral Larosaa journalist specializing in health and science in 5 . TV News and Vice President of the National Association of Health Informers (ANIS).

Misinformation has become contagious social virus, with serious consequences for health, already in the first moments of the Covid-19 epidemic. At the time, the RRSSalud project was just beginning to study exactly how and why hoaxes spread. Now that we have overcome the toughest stages of the battle against covid-19, it’s time to share what we’ve learned as well. during the the information.

Citizens must take responsibility Disinformation is a phenomenon with serious social consequencesRamon Salaveria, Principal Investigator of the RRSSalud Project. The pandemic has shown that ignoring recommendations backed by science and replacing them with conspiracy theories or denial can have very serious, even fatal, health risks for those who fall in love with those messages.”

Salaverría emphasized that consumers of information “are also carriers of disinformation” and in this sense “Our greatest danger is ourselvesFor this reason, an important part of the RRSSalud project is devoted to the generation of materials that train the audience to act as a buffer against hoaxes.

More than 500 tricks analyzed

The RRSSalud team investigated the classification and dynamics of dissemination of false health information on social networks in Spain during the early months of the pandemic. That’s why they analyzed it About 530 Hoax Check Articles Posted by platforms cursedAnd the netural And the EFE achieved − Only three Spanish verification organizations have obtained accreditation from IFCN, the main international quality seal of Fact-checkers– Between March 11 and June 10, 2020, with the help of big data technologies implemented with the Barcelona Supercomputing Center – the National Center for Supercomputing.

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Polo is fully available Deliberately false apparently truedeception was conceived and publicly posted by any means of social media”, notes Salaverría. His team has been able to develop “a classification of deception and a diagram of its severity, which ranges from the mildest – Joke and exaggeration– even more dangerous –Remove context and deception– “.

Mobile messaging apps or closed social networks are the main providers of hoaxes:The WhatsApp It was revealed as a platform where Hoaxes are spreading in greater numbers and to a greater extent,” Salaverría noted. Although there is a “large prevalence of fake content” in Open social networks, such as Twitter“.

“Single 4% of hoaxes are identified by the mediaPrincipal researcher at RRSSalud, highlighted “which means that journalists have done an important job filtering out disinformation”.

realistic science show

“This epidemic has revealed the fundamental importance of scientific publishing,” noted Ignacio Lopez Goni, and for success to be achieved it must be based on four keys. “first and foremost AccuracyBecause we pass on knowledge. but also clarityBecause if they don’t understand you, there’s no point. as well TransparencyAnd honesty in saying both the known and the unknown. When rigor, clarity and transparency are present, the trustThe fourth essential element: the public must trust the person relaying the information.

On the relationship between science and the phenomenon of misinformation, Lopez Goni highlights the unprecedented phenomenon that “During the epidemic the bowels of the flag were seen, it was reality showUntil then, the public was accustomed to knowing only the results of investigations, “and witnessed the progress of knowledge as it was produced, including its doubts, doubts, and even its errors.”

“Science takes time, and it has its rhythms,” recalls Lopez Goni. Having to speed it up to the limit during the pandemic has led to errors. An example of this phenomenon was rise of Prepress editions, scientific works that did not pass the critical review of independent experts, which, however, given the extremely high demand for information, played a leading role in epidemic reporting. One result of RRSSalud is that, in fact, The Prepress editions They have sometimes been sources of deception.

Scientific journalism

Patricia Fernandez de Lys, for whom the pandemic has been “one of the most difficult moments in my career and the life of my team”, highlighted the value of “being part of a team”. Ten reporters are willing to deal with this kind of informationAnd that we worked together for fifteen years, it was extraordinary.”

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De Lis emphasized that combating disinformation has been an essential part of the work these years. “We passed Get rid of more time than posting“.He also highlighted the importance of reporting transparently, as well as reporting on what was not yet known.” doubts And the suspicionWe write many times unknown“.

Processing information in a short time

For its part, Coral Larosa highlighted the frenetic pace at which the audio-visual media operates, forced to comply with broadcast schedules and the inexhaustible demand to search for experts. Of course, that sometimes makes us wrong, Calling the one who doesn’t really know“We were overwhelmed by a lot, and we did not have time to process and absorb large amounts of complex information in a short time,” he said.

That, for Larrosa, is one of the lessons of the pandemic. “We are not prepared to report on emergencies,” although he at the same time stressed that “we journalists have a lot of will and desire to do it well.” It evaluated the work of journalists in hospitals and research centers that “Our eyes were in places we couldn’t reach“.

Science in tricks

A new conclusion for RRSSalud that Salaverría also highlighted concerns about the relationship between science and hoaxes, an aspect to which the project has given particular attention. Researchers frequently classify hoaxes according to their scientific content, and discover four types:

science rushed: Misleading information based on true but preliminary results.

The science of contextlessnessSource: real result taken from its context.

misunderstood science: a result that is true but misrepresented, intentionally or unintentionally.

Falsehood without scientific basis: a trick without more.

Researchers discover that when scientific sources are mentioned in science and health hoaxes, the common deception mechanism is ‘extended saladAs Salaverría explained, “It may be true that these sources are scientists or health personnel, but in reality they are not experts in the matter being reported. This is what happens If a biologist, chemist, or other person with advanced training makes claims about a discipline other than that in which he is proficient. In these cases, it is common for citizens or even the media to perceive a degree of knowledge that they do not possess.”

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It is just one of the many “mechanisms of falsehood” that the authors of the project discovered. Among them is the use of arguments not sequential in which The conclusion does not follow from the building; fallacies ignorant adwhose falsehood is to pretend that an assertion is indisputably true (or false) for the simple fact that The interviewer cannot prove the validity of the opposing thesis; or generalizations, where “what, in fact, is no more than one or a few isolated cases, is raised to a general category,” explains the researcher.

The researchers also studied the cognitive mechanisms that make citizens more vulnerable to deception. This is how they discover bias no one deceives me, It can be translated as “they don’t sneak up on me” or “no one cheats on me”, and it mainly affects The most educated people. It’s ‘a specific group From overconfidence biaswhich has long been identified among other disciplines by psychology” but, according to the study, “finds definite expression in the face of misinformation content.”

People have a perception of itOthers are deceived, because I know how to protect myselfSpecifically observed.Gap between young and old’, he added. “The former think that older people are exposed to misinformation because they do not dominate technology, and older people instead think that the unprotected are young people because they do not know the proper sources.”

Other cognitive biases that increase vulnerability to deception are confirmation bias, which consists of configuring the information we receive to match our beliefs, opinions or tastes; The persevere in beliefs, the tendency to hold to a conviction despite receiving evidence that contradicts or refutes it; The selective cognitiondetermined by our beliefs and expectations; and call The “jumping bandwagon” biaswhich refers to the tendency to uncritical adherence to the opinion of the people around us about something.

RRSS researchers have also produced informational materials for the general public, including a podcast and a guide to help combat misinformation available on the web. www.rrssalud.org. The media package will be supplemented with a test so that Every citizen can test their ability to identify potentially misleading content.

Aileen Morales

"Beer nerd. Food fanatic. Alcohol scholar. Tv practitioner. Writer. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot."

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