Weaponisation of the media

Public trust in media has steadily declined across OECD countries, and this distrust is also prevalent in South Africa. To add to this distrust, over the past decade, globally (and in South Africa) we have witnessed the rise of unregulated partisan media, online news sites that mimic traditional media, and the proliferation of alternative news sources (such as podcasts) where journalistic codes and regulatory functions are absent from the production of news media. 

The consequence of this is that a considerable increase in sources of mis- and disinformation has unfolded, creating a fair amount of information overload and ‘noise’ in the public consumption of media. There is also overlap and spill-over effects between social and online media, and unregulated partisan media. 

Combine this with the self-reinforcing impacts that centralised algorithms have on news consumers and the proliferation of echo-chambers that drive socio-political divisions, it’s no wonder the public are confused and divided over key issues that impact them. The Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change has been developing methods to research, expose and intervene in this space; with a view to empowering media consumers to better understand what is influencing media bias and to become more discerning and responsible consumers of information.

The Challenge

News media has been compromised by a toxic mix of issues over the years. This has resulted in news media moving away from the standards of traditional journalism to inform audiences in a balanced way.

Rather, it has become an opportunity to fuel consent and descent on social and political issues, taking advantage of new technology to reach targeted audiences with dire consequences.

The Process

This project will:
– Track, analyse and report media behaviour and influences in accessible ways using new and old media platforms;
– Establish the facts when incorrect information is published;

– Design content to inform news media consumers how issues were reported on, why and whose interests are being served;

and – Develop a platform strategy for disseminating the content in accessible ways to targeted audiences.

The Objective

Our goal is to empower the consumers of news by providing digestible discursive analyses of how the media reports on stories; grow media consumers’ awareness of the dynamics that influence the production and distribution of news media; and temper the disruptive effects of narrative manipulation, mis- and disinformation that threaten societies.