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Media Intelligence

Last week we released the Media Genius
Study Guide, which features five durable trends students of media will need to understand. The first is media intelligence. While it could be seen as a catch-all, this topic is rooted in data application (with a large dose of curiosity) that determines how stories and ideas spread. 

If you've ever wondered about the origins of a conspiracy theory, worried about the impact of deepfakes, followed a digital influencer online, or cringed at an unfortunate ad placement, then you've sensed media intelligence (or lack thereof) at work. Uncovering motivations and practices of media creators has never been more critical as emerging tech and distribution systems blur the lines between truth and fiction. It's especially fitting for our first deep dive as COVID-19 disinformation and conspiracy theories increase in volume and reach.

We're seeing wide circulation of dangerous content like "The Plandemic," a well-produced video filled with falsehoods about the coronavirus. Conspiracy theorists are taking advantage of the global situation to hack views and money despite platform crackdowns. And unfounded claims like the Wuhan Lab narrative just won't die, fueling disturbing and potentially life-threatening consequences

Platforms, research firms, and governments are on the case. Facebook has announced an 
oversight board in an attempt to quell misinformation and ideological bias on its platforms. Partnership on AI and First Draft have begun experimenting with descriptive labels that identify manipulated media for social media users. And Canada's $50 million Local Journalism Initiative is funding more than 160 positions nationwide to support legitimate reporting.

We all need to make individual efforts to learn more about the content we read, watch, share, and denounce. This can seem like a lot. But we've broken it down with a curated list of classes in the guide that includes topics like 
deepfakes vs. cheap fakes from Data & Society, tracking COVID-19 misinformation from the News Literacy Project, navigating social media conversations from Tumblr, and much more. The examples below also reflect how an information crisis is playing out during the pandemic, and its effects on legacy media and the future of the industry. 

Chris Perry


As always, if you find this newsletter valuable we would be grateful if you encouraged others to sign up by directing them here.
What We're Reading
Media Intelligence
Why the Coronavirus Is So Confusing
By Ed Yong, The Atlantic

In times of crisis, people have historically struggled to find enough information. Now they struggle because they're finding too much. In this "guide to making sense of a problem now too big for any one person to understand," The Atlantic details the forces behind our collective challenge in understanding the pandemic. 

Media Intelligence
Trail of Deceit: The 13 Most Popular COVID-19 Myths and How They Emerged
By John Gregory and Kendrick McDonald, NewsGuard

As COVID-19 has spread across the globe, NewsGuard’s team of journalists has been tracking, rating, and flagging websites spreading information about the disease. Here, they document and debunk the top 10 COVID-19 myths that have spread across these sites — and trace how each emerged and began to proliferate across the internet.

Media Intelligence
During the Pandemic, Models Get a Digital Makeover 
By Maghan McDowell, Vogue Business

With photoshoots on pause, digital technology is a welcome solution to boring product photography. Brands big and small are merging real and digital models and even creating totally fictional CGI models. According to experts, the pandemic is accelerating the industry toward these and other innovations that would have otherwise arrived in a few years.  

Media Intelligence
‘In These Uncertain Times,’ Coronavirus Ads Strike Some Repetitive Notes
By Nat Ives, The Wall Street Journal

The most common elements of coronavirus advertising are familiar by now: Piano music, images of empty streets, voice-overs that invoke “these uncertain times,” and company promises to be there for consumers. But that approach is getting repetitive and risks appearing insincere, some in the ad industry say.

Media Intelligence
AP-NORC Poll: Seeking Virus Data, People Struggle With Trust
By Aamer Madhani and Hannah Fingerhut, Associated Press

A new poll finds that only 32% of Americans have a lot of trust in coronavirus information provided by the media. Interviewees said the process of consuming, digesting, and discerning the credibility of the fire hose of virus information has become a time-consuming and unsettling process. These sentiments ring true around the world, as decreasing public confidence in the media poses an existential threat to the industry at a global level.

Media Intelligence
The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News
By Robinson Meyer
, The Atlantic

A massive study conducted a couple of years back by MIT found that falsehoods almost always beat out the truth on Twitter, penetrating further, faster, and deeper into social networks than accurate information. What does this mean today, when pandemic-related information can have life-or-death consequences?

Emerging Technology
Poynter Institute Launches WhatsApp Chatbot to Debunk Coronavirus-Related Hoaxes
By Manish Singh, TechCrunch
You can now debunk thousands of coronavirus-related hoaxes with a few texts on WhatsApp. Poynter Institute, a non-profit organization that supports journalism, launched a bot on the Facebook-owned service that will allow people across the globe to discredit over 4,000 COVID-specific hoaxes.
Deep Take
The COVID-19 “Infodemic” 
By Melanie Smith, Erin McSweeney, Léa Ronzaud, Graphika
In this report, Graphika uses data visualization to analyze the global online conversation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. These network maps reveal the unprecedented volume of misinformation around the virus and illustrate the virality of mis- and disinformation in crisis situations.
Copyright © 2020 Weber Shandwick

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