by Jessica Kempenich & Kristin Marosi, codetekt, Germany.
codetekt is a non-profit association that develops strategies and solutions against misinformation in online articles, news from social media or messenger apps. codetekt has developed a community-based platform, will offer digital education from March 2023 and is committed to fighting misinformation across borders in the German-speaking world.
Mis and disinformation are omnipresent and its spread is becoming more and more intense, among other things due to digitalization. Every day we receive a flood of information that we want and should filter out for trustworthy, valid information and fake, questionable news. In an era of rising populism, a pandemic and several wars, people are losing trust in mainstream media and science, so it is important to strengthen their media literacy skills.
Especially during elections, the targeted dissemination of disinformation on the Internet spreads insecurity and distrust. Voters in the US were influenced in their opinion. In 2016, a Russian media agency ran a broad campaign to influence Trump’s election campaign. The agency’s posts reached up to 126 million users on Facebook. The Russian Media Agency (IRA) is also linked to disinformation about the French presidential election and the corona pandemic. The current situation surrounding the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine is also influenced by disinformation. The Russian government justified the invasion with alleged fascism in Ukraine, among other claims. At the same time, Russia is trying to weaken trust in established media in Europe by supporting right-wing populist currents. Influencing public opinion and thus electoral decisions through targeted disinformation is a danger to democracy.
The idea of codetekt was born at the WirVsVirus Hackathon in March 2020. The pandemic accelerated the problem of misinformation. codetekt came together to find a civil society answer to the problem of misinformation. We rely on the innovative concept of trust-checking against false information. Not everyone has the opportunity to do their own fact-checking. Fact-checking usually requires expertise, time for research and journalistic training, as articles are checked down to the smallest detail for their truth content. Trust-checking has a different approach: it involves assessing the trustworthiness of information based on proven journalistic quality criteria. The scale ranges from “not very trustworthy” to “very trustworthy”. We present six criteria for this: Sources, citations, content (“Is emotional language or even hate speech used?”), site owners page (“who finances the website?”), online presence (“Is the website fake?”) and images/videos. These criteria help to assess whether information is trustworthy or not – even without extensive fact-checking. In this way, we want to help everyone to assess the trustworthiness of information and online articles as objectively as possible – with our community-based platform www.codetekt.org.
The trust-checking approach is accessible to a wide range of non-experts and therefore applicable to everyone. In this trust-checking approach, users are educated about the most important journalistic criteria. This automatically gives them a better overview of how to classify information. Every article that appears on the platform is checked at least eight times by four matching pairs of community members (peer review). At the end of the review process, the article is rated on the platform with a scale from “not trustworthy” to “very trustworthy”. The importance of the work of fact-checking organizations, where journalists’ fact-check and correct articles more closely, is essential for quality journalism and the debunking of misinformation and disinformation. Trust-checking is a part of fact-checking, both methods complement each other. Trust-checking by codetekt includes both the debunking of misinformation and the prebunking of one’s own media competence through the intuitive, playful platform.
These achievements are largely due to volunteer work, which is completely decentralized and purely digital. As a non-profit association, codetekt relies on donations and grants to finance itself. We are constantly looking for funding opportunities that allow us to independently develop and expand our offerings. With the platform, we want to limit the speed of misinformation and promote media literacy.
codetekt’s latest project is a media literacy workshop for refugees with a language and content focus on the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Since there is a lot of disinformation on the net due to the (dis)information war, it becomes clear how important it is to deal with information.
In the future, similar workshops will also be offered at schools so that teachers can teach their students Media skills. Children and young people in particular are vulnerable to manipulation and misinformation. They increasingly come across false news spread on social networks via their smartphones. It is important to prepare young people on how to recognise fake news. codetekt has developed two teaching units for this purpose, in which pupils are guided to take a critical look at the media. This prevents manipulation and promotes democratic participation and self-determination of the adolescents.
The work of codetekt aims to strengthen people’s independence, make them more resistant to manipulation by disinformation and contribute to a democratic society.
Jessica Kempenich, B.A. in educational science and project assistance at codetekt, Germany.
Kristin Marosi, M.A. in publishing management and managing director of codetekt, Germany.