The International Center for Journalists empowers journalists to follow the money behind disinformation in the Americas.
“I can’t think of a more critical issue than disinformation right now. It's affecting every aspect of journalism, of our societies,” said ICFJ President Sharon Moshavi.
She said it is critical to expose the sources of disinformation and find who is funding the intentional dissemination of false information.
“You can’t just do whack-a-mole. You have to find the hydra head,” Moshavi said.
ICFJ has partnered with the Scripps Howard Foundation for the program from 2022 to 2025 to contribute $3.8 million toward fighting disinformation, fighting solutions and supporting journalists, partnerships and research. ICFJ also partnered with Instituto Serrapilheira to support Brazilian journalists in 2022 and 2023.
ICFJ selected 17 investigative projects led by reporters, editors and mentors from 12 countries. There are 41 partners in the project, which include news outlets, universities, tech companies and individual reporters.
Moshavi emphasized that disinformation is a cross-border issue.
“Disinformation has no borders,” she said. “… I think that this is one thing that we, in the U.S., need to keep in mind — that local news exists in a global context. There are big global issues affecting our local audiences, and I think how we respond to that is really important.”
Several of the projects will tackle issues that cross borders. A team led by Pablo Fernandez in Chequeado, Argentina, will investigate groups spreading disinformation about gender issues, including abortion, gender identity and sex education in Latin America. The team aims to uncover whether the groups spreading disinformation coordinate with and/or receive funding from religious organizations in the United States. Partners are located in Columbia, Peru, Guatemala and the U.S.
A team led by Daniela Mendoza in Verificado, Mexico, will investigate who finances disinformation targeting Latin American migrants trying to cross the U.S. border.
The Disarming Disinformation program has multiple tracks, including research and investigation. The program kicked off its investigative track with master classes in November, where experts taught 300 professionals online over two days. Eight of the teams received mentorships from the experts and up to $10,000 in funding.
In April, the teams gathered in Austin, Texas, for an “Investigathon” — 48 hours of intensive work where the teams gained tools and techniques to complete their projects effectively. Each project has a June 30 deadline.
She also plans to hold future “Investigathons” focused on other parts of the world.
Another part of the program was an Empowering the Truth Global Summit, where journalists, fact-checkers and students were invited to weekly webinars taught in five languages to learn “how to make the truth go viral,” Moshavi said. More than 1,800 participants from 129 countries attended the summit, and small grants were given to 18 projects in 17 languages.
A second arm of the program is research, which will look at newsrooms in five countries that effectively combat disinformation and see how other newsrooms can implement those strategies.
Moshavi said journalists should “get out of our silos” and work with partners to increase the depth of work, broaden its reach and increase trust.
She said they plan to engage with groups to help spread the truth in the future, knowing that people are more likely to believe information that comes from a person they trust.
“Journalism is an important defense against disinformation, and it has to not only go on the defense, it has to go on the offense,” she said. “The flip side to disinformation is quality journalism. There has to be good news to fill those gaps, not just to combat disinformation but to fill that truth gap.”
Alyssa Choiniere is an Editor & Publisher contributor and a freelance journalist based in southwestern Pennsylvania. She previously worked as a local newspaper reporter for 10 years. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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