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SAMRISK-2-Samfunnssikkerhet og risiko

Disinformation and people: Impacts on societal trust and resilience

Alternative title: Desinformasjon og folket: en test av tillit og motstandsdyktighet

Awarded: NOK 11.8 mill.

Did you ever read stories about 5G mobile masts spreading COVID 19? Or that the EU supports mass illegal immigration? If you have ever read a post on social media that seems to be fishing for a strong emotional reaction, especially fear, there is a good chance it was mis- or disinformation, or fake news. People like you and me are targeted with the intent to trigger our emotional reactions – from curiosity to disgust to fear – either to earn money from the number of clicks, but also those who use fear to increase our doubt in our own authorities and what we normally consider reliable sources of information. Our potential distrust in authorities, and our neighbours, can contribute to societal instability, especially during a crisis. The FAKENEWS project focuses on what people do in crisis, particularly in light of increased mis- and disinformation that can be used to mislead people, increase doubt about authorities and each other, and exacerbate a crisis situation. We ask: How do civilian perceptions of threat and subsequent actions affect societal trust and resilience in the face of crisis? Norway and Sweden are both well known as societies with high trust levels. However, Sweden and Norway do not handle crisis in the same way. FAKENEWS examines the Norwegian and Swedish reactions to two crises: the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2015 migration crisis, and how trust and resilience (our ability to withstand or adapt to changes due to crisis) were impacted during these two crises. We are particularly interested in the effects of mis- and disinformation on societal trust and resilience. The data collected will be used to compare institutional policies and legal measures, to how people themselves felt and reacted to these crises. Research results from our data analysis, scenario development and exercises will be shared openly via social media, seminars as well as with policy makers to contribute to academic and public debates.

FAKENEWS applies an interdisciplinary focus – law, media studies and security studies (social sciences and humanities), technology and societal security, and health sciences (psychology) - to the ways civilians identify and react to the abstract and intangible threat of disinformation, and the subsequent interaction during crisis between civilians, civilian organisations and authorities, and at times, militaries. FAKENEWS does so through developing theory and methods of ”trust,” and "resilience," as well as understanding the nature of "threat," applied to Norwegian and Swedish case studies focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic, and the civilian reactions to the migration crisis of 2015. The focus is on what people do in crisis, particularly in light of increased mis- and disinformation that can be used to mislead people and exacerbate, rather than reduce, a crisis situation. Norway and Sweden are both well known as societies with high trust levels. Sweden and Norway do not handle crisis in the same way, however. FAKENEWS examines the Norwegian and Swedish reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of disinformation during the migration crisis as a hybrid threat to create destabilisation in a society. We further examine to what degree Norwegians and Swedes contribute to societal resilience - the capability of resisting or mitigating a threat. We ask: How do civilian perceptions of threat and subsequent actions affect societal trust and resilience in the face of crisis? The data collected will be used to compare with institutional policies and legal measures, to expose any inconsistencies or contradictions between institutional and civilian practices of resilience. Through an extensive dissemination plan TRUSTING FAKENEWS will inform policy and training tools including scenarios and exercises, and add to academic and public debates.

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SAMRISK-2-Samfunnssikkerhet og risiko