By AEJ intern Maya Szaniecki
Mikko Salo, founder of the Finnish fact-checking service ‘Faktabaari,’ has an impressive background in EU policy, latest as a LUT University EU senior advisor. He has also worked as an external advisor and evaluator to the European Commission, as well as being a long-standing councillor to AEJ Belgium. His work has always had some sort of linkage with EU policy and affairs, but since 2014 he has steered towards dealing with digital information disorders, namely mis-, dis- and malinformation, through his continuous involvement with Faktabaari.
Faktabaari is now a member of the newly formed EDMO Nordis (Nordic Observatory for Digital Media and Information Disorder) hub and Mikko Salo himself is part of its Executive Committee. The EDMO, which stands for the European Digital Media Observatory, works on fighting disinformation across media in the EU. It has recently set aside over €11 million to be used in the funding and creation of eight regional hubs to expand on their work, covering Ireland, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Norway.
‘Nordis,’ led by Professor Anja Bechmann (Aarhus University), is the EDMO hub that will focus on the Nordic countries and how to tackle information disorders there, bringing together fact-checkers and researchers from the region. So far, the Nordis consortium is made up of the Aarhus University, University of Bergen, Faktisk.no, TjekDet, Helsinki University, Uppsala University, Källkritikbyrån and Faktabaari itself.
As Salo put it: “EDMO started first building structures and preparing pilots more than a year ago, and these hubs just got started in September of this year . We are still more or less in the making of this network of independent actors.”
Of course, many people might question why such fact-checking is necessary in the Nordic countries, which are often looked to as the most progressive and democratic in our world today. Yet, as Salo explained, “online harms are everywhere and Nordics are very trust-based societies where many things are very institutionalized. So, if we let the trust erode in Nordic countries, I think the consequences might be even scarier than in some other societies.” If the trust in these societies were to break down it could be extremely damaging for our democratic institutions and it’s for this reason that new institutions like the Nordis hub would need to continue educating and engaging civil society. This is why, as well as fact-checking, the Nordis hub will also aim to carry out research and create educational toolkits to help increase media and information literacy, transparency and accountability. Particular focus will be on young people who are heavy users of online media and therefore most vulnerable to information disorders. They also determine the future direction of the media.
Through this, Salo hopes that the Nordis hub will serve as a research-based awareness-raising platform and that people will learn more about how the “information ecosystem influences our information diet.” When asked about the potential future of the project, he replied: “it’s still early stages, but we already have quite an ambitious program within NORDIS while there is a lot of potential also to extend with other EDMO hubs.”
The ambitious program in question involves four main activities surrounding research, combatting disinformation, expanding media literacy, and cooperating with national authorities. In today’s society where so much of our world is online, it is unsurprising that a consortium like the Nordis hub has been created, and there is no doubt that it will soon be recognized for its indispensable work.
EDMO Nordis participants