The Struggle Against Misinformation in Syria

Mapy of Syria and the Mideast Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay

Short-staffed fact-checkers, a fight against disinformation, and a struggle for resources in a decade long conflict

News Analysis by Kira Scott and York Chan

In Poynter’s story, “These fact-checkers are working to bring truth back to war-torn Syria — but they need help,” Daniela Flamini discusses an urgent crisis. In 2016, Ahmad Primo jumpstarted Verify-Sy: a fact-checking platform whose mission is to combat misinformation, propaganda, and over-dramatization of the Syrian civil war. They accomplish this mission by verifying social media posts and news about Syria. In an effort to give its audience unbiased, politically neutral news, Verify-Sy currently releases 30 articles a month, published in Arabic, Turkish and English. Those articles have gained a significant following. Unfortunately, Verify-Sy is plagued with adversity.

The platform is severely underfunded and its staff consists of only 12 people from Turkey, Europe, and Syria. The article describes Syria as “an unbearable environment,” where Syrian journalists are targeted by all parties and an estimated “200 journalists have been killed in Syria since…the conflict began,” according to Reporters Without Borders. Consequently, many journalists simply don’t want to risk their lives for the 29 percent of the Syrian population that are internet users. Even if their work is published, Syrian journalism is “under extreme censorship,” said Rami Maghrabeh the Grant and Project Manager of Verify-Sy. This hostile, unreliable “news neighborhood” has created uncertainty and conspiracy.

Verify-Sy wants to foster a Syrian news eco-system that educates the public on how to detect false information and how it spreads. The platform strives to “(improve) democracy and transparency” while also helping the public “(form their opinion) based on facts and true events,” said Maghrabeh. However, without financial resources, reliable journalists and traveling assistance, Verify-Sy’s mission seems increasingly difficult to accomplish.

This is a pressing and relevant issue because of an influx of news pertaining to Syria that is politically biased, propagandistic and outright fake. Many consumers and followers of these media outlets don’t posses news literacy skills to distinguish between reliable and unreliable news. Subsequently, the public is being misled or uninformed. Factual, credible and verifiable news is the very foundation of an informed and engaged society. Without it, Syrians, and the world at large, cannot make life-changing decisions based on facts.

The Takeaway: There will always be misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda to lead people astray because organizations and individuals have agendas. However, it is the responsibility of society at large to ensure that the most reliable news is delivered to the public. This is why it’s important to support outlets such as Verify-Sy that share that goal.