As social media fuels disinformation campaigns and rumours that influence elections, strengthen hate groups and even foment genocide, a growing number of media organisations are fighting back with new fact-checking initiatives. But these initiatives have yet to reach refugees in Europe, who have specific information needs and who are often even more susceptible to social media misinformation than host populations. They lack a media that represents them to dispel rumours and offer trustworthy, complete information about the topics that dominate their conversations.
As a result, refugees often spend years without a trusted source of news and information. This gap hinders their ability to navigate new surroundings, bureaucracies and services, and renders them easy targets for disinformation and rumours. The Information Justice Project (IJP) is an unprecedented community journalism project built to address this need. Its team — made up of refugee social media editors and local journalists — will subsidise existing refugee social media networks with rapid, high-quality, hyperlocal, fact-checked information and help them build content that fills the information vacuum left by governments, UN agencies and other authorities. It will produce counter-content that is every bit as engaging, resonant and relevant as social media rumours and disinformation.
The IJP is not another information tool or platform for refugees. Refugees in Europe already have trusted networks, platforms and digital communities they have built themselves. Instead, it aims to subsidise those existing refugee-led initiatives with professionally verified information about the issues and institutions important to them, and with access to power brokers they do not normally enjoy.
The IJP’s design team are veterans and architects of the humanitarian social media project Refugee.Info. The team seeks to build on our previous work together and evolve it outside the INGO system.
We believe that only as independent journalism can the project maintain an uncompromised commitment to serving the information needs of its community.
The project will sit within Refugee Info Bus, a well-established and trusted independent nonprofit organisation with a mission to help refugees in France and Greece keep themselves informed. From its base in Refugee Info Bus, the new project will seek to build a coalition of other information providers within the countries where it works.