Governments face a constant challenge in directly countering false information both online and offline. Effective communication is a key tool in the government’s tool kit, yet it remains a struggle for many countries. Governments have not historically been good storytellers, as official messaging focuses more on fact than on emotion. More importantly, governments’ tendency toward secrecy or hesitance to share unvetted information can leave an information void that malign actors can exploit.
This situation is changing as more governments adopt strategic communications approaches. These tactics include, for example, developing counternarratives to fight violent extremists’ recruitment materials, or using fact-checking or verified information methods to counter false or manipulated media.
In the case of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, governments continue to struggle to get ahead of false, misleading and deliberately harmful messages. This situation is especially important, as it becomes more evident that efforts to vaccinate populations will run up against the well-organized, solid communication networks built by the anti-vaxx community.
This session will focus on the value of effective communications in the information disorder space and discuss the emergence of the strategic communications approach. We will hear from experts and fellow network members about their efforts, including Heidi Tworek, who will discuss lessons learned from her important research on democratic health communications during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting will also feature a conversation with Taiwan’s digital minister, Audrey Tang, about the role civic tech plays in controlling the pandemic in Taiwan, and how that same approach is used to combat disinformation more broadly. Due to time zones, this conversation will be prerecorded, but the full discussion will be shared with network members.
If you are interested in learning more about the network, please email [email protected].
Chris Beall is the policy lead, platform governance, with the digital economy research team at CIGI. Chris was most recently the founding director of the Digital Citizen Initiative at the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Heidi Tworek is a CIGI senior fellow and an expert on platform governance, the history of media technologies, and health communications. She is an associate professor of public policy and international history at the University of British Columbia.
Audrey Tang is Taiwan’s digital minister in charge of social innovation.