The conversation about how to fight fake news, mis- and disinformation has mostly revolved around educating audiences to be a little wiser with what they share online.
The Cube, the social media newsdesk of Euronews, does just that. Its team is on the mission to reinvent how breaking news is broadcast, verifying and debunking incidents in real time as they unfold on social media.
Emmanuelle Saliba, head of social strategy and editor, The Cube, explains how the team investigated a recent story emerged on social media about a group dressed in KKK clothing posing in Northern Ireland.
"We deconstructed that piece by piece and showed how we came to verify that the picture was taken in that location. That means showing people the reporting process that they rarely see and don’t understand," she said.
While primarily a broadcast segment on Euronews and NBC News, Saliba said that The Cube addresses a key issue within TV: that they are always behind the pace of social media.
"I saw there was a big disconnect between what people were watching on TV and what they were seeing on social timelines," she explained.
"You’re going to see information being shared on Twitter much faster than on TV. The average user is wondering: 'why isn’t Euronews or NBC showing me this image that I keep seeing on my feed?'"
Critically, she says this enables The Cube to get ahead of the spread of fake news before it spirals out of control on social media.
"The Cube is designed technologically to go to air within seconds. We don’t go through a control room, as you traditionally would. That was the purpose. In my previous jobs I felt like we weren’t going to air quick enough and things were taken out of context," Saliba said.
"We keep everything within the platform and the people doing this work can say ‘I just found this on Twitter, let me show you what I’ve found’; ‘Emmanuelle just interviewed this witness on the ground’; ‘let me pull up the Facebook post I saw 30 minutes ago’.
"That element of not taking UGC out of context and into packages is regaining trust with our audiences."
The Cube also defy tradition by going without a prompter for a more conversational delivery. Social media correspondent, Alex Morgan, is normally seen at the heart of action, including a four-hour live stream following the Strasbourg attacks. Saliba says capturing a casual tone is also key to rebuilding trust.
As an English-speaking platform based in Lyon, France, The Cube looks to cater to younger English speaking European audiences.
Statistics from the Reuters Digital Report 2018 show that trust levels are as low as 35 percent in France and 42 percent in the UK, but more troublingly, trust towards social media is at 19 percent and 12 percent respectively.
"Audiences are sceptical and they have the right to be. It's hard for users to understand what they can or cannot trust," she explains.
"It’s not just a question of real or fake, it's a question of misinformation and manipulation. We’re diving into that a little bit more in The Cube, and we’re not telling them what to believe, we’re explaining to them how they are manipulated on certain platforms."
While peeling back the process shows the authentic methods of verification, it also serves to teach the viewers how simple techniques, such as geolocation and Google reverse-image searching, are tools which can be learned by social media users at home.
"Our job is to be transparent and give them the tools to form their own opinion on things," she said.
"Part of that toolbox is to recognise what we’re reporting, what goes into fact-checking, what goes into news gathering. The other part is giving them exposure to other points of views, and I think so often the media tends not to include all views or all voices, which is why you have a sceptical audience.
"That’s why we see such a divide politically and it’s important to The Cube to include voices that feel like they’re not heard and that would have a tendency to say the media is biased."
She notes that audiences are also becoming more aware of how misinformation can be the result of political manipulation.
Orbán is manipulating my words for his alt-right anti-European agenda. This is straight out of Vladimir Putin's playbook. Compare what they claim with what I actually said and make up your own mind! pic.twitter.com/KKEIsIK4C5— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) October 17, 2018
One of their most impactful pieces came when The Cube debunked a Facebook ad by Victor Orbán and the Hungarian government which takes Guy Verhofstadt out of context about migration in Europe. Verhofstadt has since written to Mark Zuckerberg to show The Cube’s dissection to the 5 million viewers exposed to the original video.
And with the upcoming European elections, she notes that they have a lot of fact-checking still to do.
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