Orion Grid for Leadership and Authority
Via a dedicated website and a facebook page, the project exposes fake news and conspiracy theories regarding COVID-19 in Bulgaria while at the same time educates in media literacy and critical thinking the audience and strengthens the support to journalists who are tracking the roads of fake news and news manipulation.
The initiative works online as well a remotely with journalists from all over Bulgaria and beyond.
Our work with investigative journalists shows that fake news regarding Covid-19 is an international phenomenon, spreading from Russia and China to the US, Europe and especially Eastern Europe. Many of the sources of manipulation are far-right media, linked to political parties and oligarchs but the key problem are “trash” websites, youtube and social media sources without any information about ownership. Manipulated information can influence the health and safety choices of people. They can also result in moral panics regarding anyway vulnerable to abuse groups: Roma, refugees, homeless people, prizoners, the poor etc - being singled out as carers of the disease. A dangerous trend is the use of desinformation to exert pressure on the freedom of speech, whistleblowing, activism and so on.
The majority of informal media sources in Bulgaria are owned by Russia-linked agents who are linked to a further spread of misinformation about the pandemics. In recent past, fake news successfully created moral panics resulting in blocking key policies, e.g. the Istanbul Convention and the National Strategy for the Children, creating a climate against human rights approaches, social services, NGOs etc. The moment is particularly opportune for disinformation leading to wider threats to democracy. Hence, we will educate more widely in media literacy. Our experience and precedents elsewhere show that investigative journalists working against manipulation can be subjected to severe psychological warfare and will benefit from our professional support and from building them as a community.
Working with investigative journalists and providing other feedback channels, we will explore the fears and anxieties of people who are targeted by fake news to induce moral panics among them. Unlike other similar projects we will debunk myths by crtitally appraising not only what is fake, but also what may be the true components of conspiracy theires and fake news. We will ensure user freindly presentation of such content through infographics, critical and engaging articles and so on. We will particularly work with people from vulnerable to disinformation groups such as rural areas, poor people lacking access to quality media, people with low literacy and education.
1. Designed as a Theory of Change workshop, a kick off meeting will detail the workplan. All team members and key stakeholders will participate to outline a strategy for media literacy education.
2. Corona Fake News Shakers Webinar. This activity will provide the foundations for building our online presence.
3. Process Consultancy Webinar. It will aim to unify our approach as a team to the process consultancy and change management for investigative journalists, activists, and whistleblowers thus strengthening their capacities, resilience, and resistance, including beyond Bulgaria.
4. Ongoing work will comprise regular investigation and analysis of news about the coronavirus, consultations for and building a community of investigative journalists, media literacy events, and publicity.
We estimate that we will debunk at least 300 fake news and other disinformation. We will produce at least 10 analytical articles exposing the processes and purposes involved as well as educational articles. We will tailor the contents to the needs of vulnerable to manipulation populations. We will also dedicate special efforts to vulnerable to scapegoating through disinformation groups such as those affected by the virus, the Roma, refugees, prisoners, homeless, etc. We will update and monitor “trash” websites and channels.
We will be running ad hoc webinars for academia and bloggers/influencers to multiply the effects and to recruit collaborators. We will produce ad hoc briefings for international and other organizations.
The proposal offers the most robust initiative to monitor fake news and manipulative disinformation in Bulgaria, with the potential to become the richest platform in the Black Sea region. There is a platform for Eastern Europe, but it is not in Bulgarian and does not cover locally developed/adapted fakes. Where we come across disinformation relevant to the region, we will translate into Russian and English, does potentially scaling up . By supporting and training other groups of citizens we will multiply the effects. By working in a multidisciplinary team and partnership, we will address not just the issue with fakes and manipulation, but their effects in terms of racist propaganda, hate speech, stigmatisation and so on. The process consultancy provides a blue print for the region.
We are a platform for civil rights and activism providing spaces for thinking and understanding, writing and artistic activity. As a resource organisation we offer a wide range of aids based on rigorous and robust methodologies for actors who carry the democratic impulse. We monitor and openly resist policies and politics directed towards oppression and those threatening human rights. The Orion Grid actively opposes policies motivated by authoritarian, totalitarian and far-right attitudes, which pose a threat to human rights, civil rights and the rights of those in a disadvantaged position. We write and reflect on the state of the contemporary society, develop critique and participate in visionary experiments. Misinformation on the corona virus requires an urgent action in these fields.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
A Ruzuko platform 1020 EUR, Secure communications 2000 EUR, public relations/out reach 2000 EUR.
Personne cost for ongoing work will comprise regular investigation and analysis of news about the coronavirus, consultations for and building a community of investigative journalists, media literacy events and publicity: 8 members x 5000 EUR = 45 000 EUR
Any feedback and comments will be most welcome, in particular with a view of risks and risk mitigation, social and political challenges as well as what areas we should especially focus on with the activities and the implementation of the project as a whole.