Editor's note

As we have noted at EU DisinfoLab, disinformation has many faces (manifestations, motives, and tools). It is only logical that the response to disinformation must have many faces as well. In this project, we seek to present a panorama of the different kinds of actors responding to disinformation today – from broadcast journalists to open source investigators to election observers to technology developers. In the report that follows, we interview 14 actors from across this emerging civil society ecosystem.

Key trends

These are micro-entities. 43% of the initiatives surveyed count between 0 and 2 employees

They are community-reliant. 57% work with volunteers and 64% rely on crowdsourcing to some extent.

Strained relationship with the private sector. Almost a third of the participants feel they are in opposition to the major platforms, and two thirds have a weak relationship with telecommunications actors

Sustainability. Only one of the initiatives surveyed said that their operation is fully sustainable.

Security. Cybersecurity is a concern for all actors interviewed. None feels that their operation is entirely secure.

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2020, a turning point in our response to disinformation?

This research was conducted at a moment when the disinformation challenge has never seemed higher. From the Covid-19 health crisis and parallel ‘infodemic’ to elections in the US and Belarus, 2020 has been a tumultuous year for our information ecosystems.

Towards a Resilient, Decentralized Civil Society Ecosystem

Disinformation represents a diffuse and rapidly evolving set of challenges. It requires a broad response and the harmonised efforts of diverse actors. Disinformation is also a transversal threat by which more and more actors find themselves confronted. EU DisinfoLab believes that a thriving, decentralized civil society ecosystem is key to an effective response.

This report is made possible by the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Thanks are also due of course to the actors interviewed and featured here. They were generous in taking the time to participate in this project, and earnest in their contributions. The report that follows is rich because of their openness. Particularly admirable was their ability to discuss their vulnerabilities and struggles. In the face of these challenges, their tireless optimism is striking and kinetic.