This topic can be either positive or negative depending on the accuracy/inaccuracy or biased/unbiased levels of the information promoted by the companies and their impacts on society.
The introduction should describe the broader impact issue to set the stage for the reader.
- Why is accurate information and/or media pluralism vital for society?
- In what ways does the industry have an important role to play?
- How is the industry ensuring that the contents and facts are suitably checked and censored (if necessary) before being reported or promoted?
- What are the effects of misinformation being distributed over media channels and how do they affect society? Add solid scientific research as support for the claims made here.
- If relevant, why is wrongful or false advertising harmful to consumers and society? Are there specific or recurrent issues for the industry being analysed?
Then, at the core of the analysis, describe what product, service, or idea is wrongfully marketed by the company and its impact.
To include (depending on the company, its industry, and only if relevant):
The number of people accessing and being impacted by the content or the wrongful advertisement
The type of information that the audiences are accessing, such as education and training tools.
Whether the company engaged in false advertising. How does this contribute either negatively or in some cases positively to society? Touch upon its three components “fraud”, “falsity”, and “misleading” of the product, service, or idea.
What type/from what sources and how accurate the information is (news sources? How much is timely, accurate, fair, independent, etc.);
What type/from what sources and how inaccurate the information is (social media platforms? How much is fake news, hate speeches, conspiracy theories, etc.);
Was there biased information (media pluralism, political polarization)
Quantification of the impact resulting from accurate or inaccurate information (political, public health, governance, consumers health, etc.)
Ensure that the analysis discusses all relevant points, making sure that it is comprehensive, treating the topic to its fullest potential.
We do not aim to report on the content that the company is publishing, but rather on whether generally, the company fact-checks and reports current and timely unbiased information, or not.
In some instances, like for Alphabet, it can discuss access to education - think of the use of YouTube as an educational tool - how much content on that helps people access education? how many people does it reach?
Or, think of Fox News which can be more biased, catering to specific population groups and beliefs, etc.
Avoid writing analyses that are anecdotal, such as by discussing the content of documentaries. Instead, you should assess the overall accuracy of the information provided, and then secondary to the note, provide a couple of concrete examples to substantiate it.
How to conduct a comprehensive analysis
To help show the scale of the impact, you would need to show that there is a trend. It is critical to explore the company's track record.
- Has the company won any awards for its quality of information?
- What is the public opinion on the matter?
- Has the company been rated by third parties regarding the quality and accuracy of the content?
- Does the company have a trend of exposing important cases?
- It would be insightful to list the major reports that the company has brought forward.
We suggest looking at the different occasions when the company has aired/published content with fake or other inaccurate information (or accurate and fact-checked information), and try to add up all the occurrences. Then, state how much this makes up out of the total content provided in a year.
For example: “The company has aired 25 documentaries that are misleading to the viewers in the past year out of a total of 100 documentaries.”
Caution: avoid statements that generalise the company or engage in defamation, such as saying that the company is famous for spreading fake news, or is the best news source.
Avoid writing analyses just on one or two examples without providing a comprehensive overview of the company's total content. Doing so would render the analysis anecdotal and peripheral. Remember to show trends that demonstrate that a company is purposefully providing accurate or inaccurate information to its viewers/readers.
Providing added value that is industry-specific:
Specifically, for media and entertainment companies, assess whether they are ensuring pluralism by maintaining on- and off-screen diversity and by safeguarding the independence of editorial boards and programming. Also assess whether these companies, as well as internet media and services, are maintaining journalistic integrity.
Are the audiences receiving accurate and timely information on current events?
Regarding advertising and marketing companies, note that they have a legal responsibility to ensure that advertising about their products and services is truthful and not deceptive. Ad agencies play a vital role in the creation of ad content and are responsible for advising their clients regarding applicable regulations. Consumer protection laws provide guidance and restrictions on advertising to children and on advertising regulated products and information.
Caution: This topic differs from the topic Adverse Health Impacts from products and/or services where a product hurts people because of a defect.
We do not aim to report on the specificities of a piece of content that the company is publishing/airing, but rather whether generally, the company fact-checks and reports current and timely unbiased information, or not.
In some instances, like for Alphabet, it can discuss access to education. Think of the use of YouTube as an educational tool - how much out of the total content on the platform provides people all of the world with access to education?
Or, consider the Fox News Channel which has been widely described as providing biased reporting in favour of conservative political positions, catering to specific population groups and beliefs, etc.
As the company’s direct impact might not always be available, you may use studies as proxies.
To describe the scale of the impact, taking into account:
1/ The breadth of the impact
Is the impact local, national, or global?
How many people are concerned? Thousands? Millions? Billions?
2/ The depth of the impact
Is the life of people concerned deeply affected, or does the issue just marginally impact them?
Are the changes brought by the issue profoundly changing society or the planet?
3/ The persistence of the impact
In your analysis, make sure you add value to your readers and go beyond the company’s CSR report by not merely reporting data from the company’s report but going the extra mile of providing additional metrics, studies, and sources to make your analysis robust and the impact value and scale are clear.