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News article26 February 2024Joint Research Centre2 min read

Tackling misinformation through media literacy

Alina Kolyuka on AdobeStock

The World Economic Forum’s 2024 Global Risks Report is sounding the alarm on the dangers of misinformation and disinformation in the current global landscape, with experts warning that these risks will have the most severe impact over the next two years. Surpassing other global risks such as extreme weather events (2nd place), societal polarisation (3rd place), the report highlights the increasing use of disinformation by both foreign and domestic actors.  

The EU Policy Lab is paying close attention to misinformation – especially from a behavioural point of view. Our report on the reasons and consequences of sharing and believing Covid-19 misinformation has already shown the dire consequences that misinformation can have for individuals and society as a whole. However, it has also pointed towards evidence-based actions we can take to tackle misinformation

We are now focusing on the impact of persuasion techniques used in misinformation and disinformation, building on the advanced quantitative work of our colleagues from the Knowledge Service on Text Mining who analyse false and misleading narratives on Covid-19, climate change, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and the Israel-Hamas conflict. They identified persuasion techniques such as sowing doubt by questioning someone’s credibility, using emotionally loaded language, or claiming that a majority of people share the conveyed opinion.  

One common persuasion technique is the “black-and-white fallacy”, which simplifies a narrative by presenting only two options as the only possibilities, eliminating other choices. You have surely engaged in discussions (online or face to face) in which your opponent (or you) employed such a technique to persuade the other person:  

“Either you think this, or you think that. There is no other option. You have to choose and it’s pretty clear what the correct choice is!”  

Naturally, this can be employed to support any argument, either true or untrue. We are interested in its effect both on the persuasiveness of false and true information, and in potential differences between the two. You can find more info on these persuasion techniques in this article

To further understand the impact of persuasion techniques, the EU Policy Lab is conducting an online experiment to test the effectiveness of various techniques using both true and false claims on climate change. By asking participants to what extent they agree with the information* presented to them, we can identify particularly effective and persuasive techniques.  

The findings from this experiment will contribute to refining interventions against misinformation and disinformation, such as focusing on literacy training on how to identify and overcome these techniques, ultimately helping to create a European society that is resilient against misinformation and disinformation. Our efforts align with the European Digital / Media Literacy Conference Week in Brussels which is currently in focus during the Belgian EU presidency of the Council of the EU in 2024. This initiative aims to raise awareness and understanding of different persuasion techniques, emphasizing the importance of digital and media literacy for all citizens.  

Further reading 

* Of course, all participants receive factual information at the end of the experiment.  


Publication date
26 February 2024
Joint Research Centre
EU Policy Lab tags

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