Freelance journalists Shelby Wilder and Jono Namara delved into the perils of misinformation and disinformation in our age of COVID-19, from conspiracy theories about the virus to a downplaying of the seriousness of the pandemic.

The project sought to explore the psychology of the infodemic, highlighting people’s tendency to assume the best when it comes to gauging the credibility and good faith of members of their own echo chambers and the worst when it comes to outside voices. Interviewing experts and scientists, the team unpicked how we prioritise imagined communities of “truth” over objective information.

They also examined the transformative role of social media in allowing untruths to circumvent traditional systems of editorial control.

“I think we have to have a really mature, open debate about where we want our respective societies to be,” Jens Koed Madsen, a researcher in cognitive psychology at the London School of Economics, said in a short documentary produced by the team. “Who do we want to imbue with those powers [of editorial control over information]? Should it be just the tech companies? I don’t think so. Should it be just the journalists? I don’t think so. It should probably be a platform of a variety of voices who in some way cooperate.”

Photo by ‘the blowup’ on Unsplash

Published stories