University of Amsterdam: Flanders and the Netherlands join EDMO project in the fight against disinformation

The European Commission recognises the relevance of the fight against disinformation and has therefore allocated two million euros to the Flemish-Dutch EDMO project. Within this project, a multidisciplinary hub will be established by and for scientists, fact-checkers, media companies and other stakeholders.

In recent years disinformation has caused a lot of damage, both abroad and in Dutch society. The corona crisis has played an important role in this and accelerated the spread of fake news. However, the best way to combat this is by way of balanced, impartial and reliable reporting which is based on facts. This is also essential for a well-functioning democracy.

Increasing media literacy and detecting fake news
The Flemish-Dutch collaboration fits within the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO), an international network of hubs in which experts in the field of disinformation join forces and share knowledge. Apart from the Dutch-Flemish hub, seven other EDMO hubs will be launched in Europe in the autumn. This way, EDMO increases media literacy with the public, both in the Low Countries and throughout Europe.

Over the next three years, the hub will not only detect growing disinformation campaigns, but also produce and publish fact-checks. A research team will also be appointed to analyse various strategies and methods that detect fake news in terms of process, effectiveness and applicability within the European policy and legal framework.

Professor Miguel Poiares Maduro, Chair of the EDMO Board of Directors: ‘EDMO brings together European fact-checkers, media literacy experts and researchers to better map disinformation. The EDMO hubs, such as the Flemish-Dutch project, play a crucial role in this. The hubs analyse disinformation campaigns, organise media literacy activities, and support local media and authorities. They provide a clearer picture of the situation at the national and regional level to promote the fight against disinformation.’

European cooperation
The different partners of the EDMO project combine complementary areas of expertise, ranging from research to publication. On the Flemish side, VRT, Knack, KU Leuven and Textgain are all putting their shoulders to the wheel. On the Dutch side, these are the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Leiden University, University of Amsterdam, the Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (ANP) and the research collective, Bellingcat. Furthermore, there is intensive collaboration with Netwerk Mediawijsheid and Mediawijs, two network organisations in the Netherlands and Flanders that make efforts to promote media literacy among children, (vulnerable) adults and media professionals.

Johan Oomen, project coordinator of EDMO, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision: ‘Financial support from the EU enables us to bring together a network of fact-checkers in Flanders and the Netherlands and to develop software that can efficiently detect misinformation. The different hubs launched this year in different Member States are exchanging results, so efforts in the Netherlands and Belgium also contribute to the broader agenda to support the news ecosystem in Europe.’

The Dutch language will already be well represented within the European EDMO network. The European Commission announced that it would also subsidise a second hub in the Low Countries, aimed at fact-checking in Dutch, French, German, English and Luxembourgish. Under the name EDMO BELUX, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Brussels School of Governance + SMIT), Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles, Mediawijs, RTL, Agence France Presse (AFP), EU DisinfoLab and Athens Technology Center will be responsible for this. Of course, the Flemish-Dutch EDMO and EDMO BELUX will work closely together.

EDMO in practice at the University of Amsterdam
The University of Amsterdam (UvA) will be involved in analysing the effectivity of different fact-checking strategies in the Dutch and Belgian setting within the research lab that will be set up. ‘Our research will feed into strategies for countering disinformation and aims to become a part of literacy tools and evidence-based policy-making’, explains UvA professor of Political Communication Claes de Vreese. ‘The first series of experiments will investigate whether regular fact-checking is effective across issues and whether fact-checkers can correct factual misperceptions, and lower the credibility of disinformation. In the next steps, experiments will also look at the effect of fact-checkers on political perceptions and evaluations, support for political parties or politicians and political cynicism.’

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