This newsletter is published at techpolicy.substack.com
An excerpt from Edition 19 is reproduced below.
The State of Information Disorder Responses
Ok, let’s dive in. I’ve been spending some time trying to understand how various countries (~30) around the world are responding to information disorder online. Specifically
- Where they perceive the threat comes from? –
- What legislative approaches they are taken/have taken/are planning to take to deal with it.
- What specific actions they are taking.
Now this is still a work in progress, but I am also in the process of opening it up for feedback. So there could be (some) changes between what is on this edition, and the final version that will go out in the next couple of weeks (hopefully).
Alright Prateek, enough talk.
Fine, fine. Let’s start you off with a map of the world. No need to get excited, no one is travelling anywhere just yet. I’m not including a link to it since Tableau insists on publishing an anti-national version.
I hope it isn’t too small. But, if it is – let me give you the gist. It represents the countries I looked at (in red) – with the number of actions the state has taken in response to information disorder.
For context, I identified 20. I’m not listing them and testing your patience – they will be on the one of the Tableau visualisations I’ve shared in this edition.
This is a little deceptive, since it only displays the number of actions. But the nature of those actions is highly significant as well.
- Are they mandatory or voluntary?
- Do they address the supply of misleading information, or the demand for it?
- Who/What is expected to respond or is the target of the action. i.e. Government, Market, Society or Individuals?
The vertical axis represents whether it is mandatory (lower) or voluntary (higher)
The horizontal axis does 2 things:
- It indicates if the intervention is supply side (left) or demand side (right)
- Distance from the center also indicates the responder/target in the following order: Government, Market, Society and Individual. To help make this distinction clearer, these are also colour-coded.
And the size of the circles is indicative of the number of countries that are taking that particular course of action (larger = more).
Let’s look at some examples to help explain this better. Admittedly, some of this is subjective.
- Arrests – Public <Bottom-Left>. Highly Mandatory. It is supply-side because such actions are targeted at individuals for “spreading” misleading information. And well, action is taken against an individual.
- State run fact-checking initiatives <Top-left>. Pretty voluntary – one can choose not to engage, or ignore even after engaging. Supply side, since, it aims to correct misleading information already out there. And these are targeted at Society.
- Funding Awareness Campaigns < Top-Right-ish>. Again, voluntary. If the state is offering grants to an organisation running an awareness campaign, it does have the option not to take them. Demand-side, since media literacy campaigns ultimately aim to reduce the demand for misleading information.
Is this too small too? Well, in this case here’s a link where you can interact with it directly.
Next, let’s look at what countries perceive as areas of threat (link). In January (remember January?), it was very unlikely that Health Misinformation would be right on top – but at this point it is not very surprising that it is. I was surprised to see ‘National Unity/State Symbols’ higher than ‘Foreign Influnce’. Admittedly, though the difference in this posturing isn’t so discrete.
Let’s also look at the how countries are legislating/or using existing laws to respond (link). Note that I’ve factored in even proposed (Brazil : Anti-disinformation) or repealed (Malaysia : Anti-disinformation) laws. Why? I am interpreting this as being indicative of direction.
That Criminal Code and Election-related legislation are the top 2, isn’t that surprising. Anti-Disinformation laws seem to be on the rise though.
Alright, are you with me so far?
Now, let’s try and look at the countries in parallel. I get that the images may be too small again, but there’s a happy side-effect of that. For better or worse – it makes it easier to spot the general differences (or lack thereof) among many countries on the list.
But don’t worry, there is an interactive version too. It is a little clunky (I’m learning on-the-fly, be nice!), though it helps compare 2-4 countries side-by-side (in fullscreen) <depending on your screen-size>.
As I said, this is a work-in-progress.
If you do happen to have thoughts on what I can improve, or just want to argue about methods – feel free to reach out to me via Twitter DMs (unless you already have my email or phone number).