Options Summer 2021: Working with a variety of stakeholders with different perspectives to develop digital tools is invaluable for addressing misinformation online. The IIASA Co-Inform project put this approach to the test.

Misinformation is a problem that long pre-dates current times. However, social media and other digital technologies have made the spread of misinformation nearly universal and its impact far broader. 

When people use social media, they are using emotional reasoning, which greatly amplifies the impact of misinformation. This emotional reaction can lead to preconditions and prejudices, which result in discrimination, intolerance of differing viewpoints, and unjust treatment of certain social groups. 

Developing digital tools that deal with misinformation in social media may be the solution, according to new research. Co-Inform, an IIASA project funded by the European Commission, develops digital tools such as a browser plugin and a fact-checking dashboard to stimulate critical thinking and the desire for social media users to search for more information.  

The goal of these tools is to decrease the influence of instinctive and emotional reactions and activate more rational reasoning. Researchers involved journalists, citizens and decision-makers in Austria, Greece, and Sweden to gain diverse perceptions and worldviews to create these tools. One of their primary goals was to preserve freedom of choice while avoiding censorship, and to create a variety of tools to increase their usefulness. 

“The co-creation of digital tools is invaluable for addressing misinformation online,” explains IIASA researcher Nadejda Komendantova. “However, journalists, policymakers, and citizens have very different expectations around the features of these tools. These expectations have to be addressed to increase the usability of the tools.”