Disinformation is now a firmly established strategy to counter facts and shift people’s opinions. Major elections around the world have been overshadowed by disinformation campaigns, be it fake news going viral through Whatsapp in India or far-right groups spreading hate in Europe. It is not just elections that are affected. Disinformation is rampant across social issues such as health, climate change and technology.
Several complementary initiatives are attempting to fight disinformation and reduce its impact. The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) is one of these efforts. We are trying to take a structured approach to measure, map and track disinformation over time and across countries.
To this end, the GDI is developing indicators that can identify, measure and validate the risk of a news-related domain disinforming its readers. Using an automated and manual assessment process, the GDI will distil several indicators into a score for each domain – a score that assesses the risk of a news site to disinform.
As a first step in developing the GDI, we have completed a scoping paper that outlines the benefit of taking a metrics-based approach and the key principles that will guide the development of the GDI. The report draws upon comparable assessments and initiatives from the journalism/disinformation space and other fields such as finance, governance and corporate responsibility and sustainability.
The GDI also looked at existing efforts to assess disinformation. Out of the 35 initiatives reviewed for our scoping paper:
- Nearly 75 per cent use automated methods to assess disinformation risk;
- Most efforts (70 per cent) focus on the domain-level and its content.
- A few initiatives are structured around indicators and a framework; and
- Less than half of the initiatives provide their data as open source.
Based on this analysis, the GDI is developing an index that will build upon this work and reflect the best practices of index design:
- Traceability of the overall score to underlying indicators;
- Clear thresholds to differentiate rating scales;
- Trustworthiness and reliability of source data used; and
- Transparent scoring methodology.
Ensuring a strong foundation for the methodology of the GDI is a vital prerequisite to combat disinformation. An index that has strong methodological underpinnings is likely to be accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
For the GDI, it is essential to establish a trusted and credible index that can tackle a topic that is corroding and undermining public trust in countries around the world. This means also guaranteeing the independence, neutrality and transparency of the GDI – as an organisation and index.
Please let us hear from you on how we can best design an index that inspires this trust.