How reporting in the passive voice changes perceptions of conflict
Also, Tonga's ongoing internet blackout, American vaccine misinformation goes global, and how misinformation is harming Pakistan's public institutions
We hope you’re having a good week.
In this edition, we look at research into how the language used in reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflict frames issues differently, particularly in the use of the passive voice to minimise the actions of one side. We also highlight the ongoing internet blackout in Tonga, where a volcanic eruption in January cut off the country’s sole undersea cable connection.
Additionally, we explore how American vaccine disinformation around Covid-19 has contributed to vaccine hesitancy around the world, as well as the impact of misinformation on public trust in the government in Pakistan.
If there are updates you would like us to share from your country or region, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Checklist is currently read by over 1000 subscribers. Support us by sharing this issue with friends and colleagues.
The latest top stories
How media reports of ‘clashes’ mislead Americans about Israeli-Palestinian violence (The Conversation)
US and international media outlets have been criticized for their coverage of the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Headlines and terminology adopted by some media outlets stirred controversy. New research by MIT into 50 years of reporting by the New York Times explores the impact of language in the reporting of Israeli-Palestinian violence on accuracy and how audiences would react to neutral terms such as "clashes".
“Using the passive voice – for example, reporting that “Palestinians were killed in clashes” rather than “Israeli forces killed Palestinians” – is language that helps shield Israel from scrutiny. It also obscures the reason so many Palestinians would be angry at Israel. Using “clashes” also gives more credibility to the Israeli government version of the story than the Palestinian one. Israeli officials often accuse Palestinians of instigating violence, claiming that soldiers and police had to use lethal force to stave off Palestinian attacks. And that’s how these events are usually reported" — Maha Nassar, Non-Resident Fellow at the Foundation for Middle East Peace
The January eruption of Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai, underwater volcano in Tonga, took down the single undersea cable connecting the archipelago to the global internet, leading to a total communications blackout. More than four months later, connectivity in the capital of Nufu’aloka has stabilized, but two island groups, Ha’apai and Vava’u, remain cut off – apart from patchy satellite service – until the domestic link that runs between islands can be repaired.
"The blockage of cross-border payments “basically [became] a bottleneck for the economy of Tonga. There [was] just no internet connection, and we’re not able to provide our services, because we ourselves have no connection” — Sela Latailakepa, Tongan business owner
Global public health experts have documented rising rates of vaccine hesitancy linked to American vaccine disinformation campaigns. Some of this disinformation is locally sourced, but many of the myths have been linked to American anti-vaccine activists who create and flood social media with posts at virtually no cost, and these posts then go on to find an audience online by encouraging distrust of elites and experts.
"While some disinformation is locally sourced, these experts have traced many of the myths to American anti-vaccine activists who create an onslaught of social media content at virtually no cost. Each piece of disinformation has a way of finding the right audience like a homing missile” — Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate
Our misinformation dilemma (The News International)
The spread of misinformation in Pakistan has made state institutions more questionable and vulnerable than ever, driving a sense of anarchy that has overshadowed state institutions. The loss of trust in between the state and the public puts democracy at risk, made worse when politicians and even some journalists have endorsed false information either intentionally or unintentionally.
“Misinformation sells by raising irrelevant questions, spreading dirt on rivals and planting foreign conspiracies. Citizens no longer know what to believe. Once people lose trust in leaders, media, state institutions and even in each other, the misinformation game wins” — Eric Shahzar, lecturer in foreign policy
What’s new at Meedan
Agence France-Presse (AFP) Fact Check launched its digital verification service in 2017, and has fact-check units across the world monitoring online content in local languages, from Amharic to Hindi, Polish to Portuguese. AFP has partnered with Meedan on the end-to-end fact-checking pilot project since 2019, working together to set up the WhatsApp tipline. In this interview we speak to Soma Basu, India Editor with AFP Fact Check about the agency’s experience of fact-checking in India,