Access to (Accurate) Information

Sarah Simon

13 min Read Time | August 10th 2021

Key Takeaways

1

The topic addresses a company's ability to ensure broad and accurate access to information, specifically in terms of accurate and unbiased information and responsible advertising.

2

This topic can assess the positive impacts from accurate information, like education and accurate and timely information on current and past events, or can assess the negative impacts from inaccurate information and wrongful or misleading advertising.

3

Accurate information is essential for society as a whole, where inaccurate information can have devastating impacts.

Executive Summary

The topic addresses a company's ability to ensure broad and accurate access to information, precisely in terms of accurate and unbiased information. It includes, but is not limited to, the coverage, mediums, and stances. Audiences rely on accurate and timely information on current events.

Failure to adhere to principles such as accuracy, fairness, minimization of harm, independence, accountability, and others can adverse social externalities being important for journalism, education, and entertainment content.

The topic can cover accurate information from a positive standpoint, such as trustworthy, factual, and unbiased information, media pluralism, and access to education and training.

The topic can cover inaccurate information from a negative standpoint, such as fake news, hate speech, and conspiracy theories.

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    What is it?

    In a digital world where overwhelming levels of hyper information take place, it is fundamental that companies ranging from media & entertainment to education companies use trustworthy sources and fact-check the contents made available for the public. Doing so will not mislead their audience into making harmful decisions or being deceived by the content absorbed.

    Audiences rely on accurate and timely information on past and current events. Principles include accuracy, fairness, minimisation of harm, independence, accountability, and transparency.

    Alternatively, Fake News, biased media outlets, lack of worldview pluralism*, inaccuracy, discrimination, and other issues related to misleading or wrongful practices in providing information has deep adverse impacts on societies.

    Impacts include but are not limited to exerting influence on critical matters such as national elections, democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, political fairness, social justice, transparency, general health, quality education and training, and others.

    *Media pluralism, which is diversity in the broadest sense, includes both external and internal pluralism.

    • External pluralism refers to media ownership, independent editorial boards, channels, titles, or programs.
    • Internal pluralism refers to the social, racial/ethnic, and political diversity represented in media content.

    Wrongful or false advertising: Advertising is persuasive communication through different mediums with the aim to promote or sell a product, service, or idea. Consumers cannot make informed purchasing decisions when companies withhold or provide distorted information.

    Fraud:
    Participating in fraudulent advertisements aims to deceive consumers. It affects decisions, but can also be positive in some instances when the product, service, or idea is more positive than what was being advertised.
    Falsity:
    Inconsistencies in said facts.
    Misleading:
    Creating impressions that are untrue or inexistent.

    These three approaches can relate to news, articles, blogs, and other sources of information that lead to deceiving customers and audiences, with wider social implications,

    Access to accurate information can be considered a modern human right.

    Sources

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

    https://www.oas.org/dil/access_to_information_iachr_guidelines.pdf

    https://www.jmir.org/2019/10/e16690/

    https://www.w3.org/People/Massimo/papers/WWW6/

    https://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/X2H-Xref-ViewHTML.asp?FileID=7956&lang=EN

    https://www.coe.int/en/web/european-commission-against-racism-and-intolerance/hate-speech-and-violence

    https://www.researchgate.net/p...

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    SDG Choice

    This topic can relate to various SDGs:

    SDG 3

    SDG 4

    SDG 8

    SDG 16

    Impact assessment

    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.

    Introduction


    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?


    Core Analysis


    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.

    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.

    For example:

    • 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

    • How long would the impact described last for? Months? Years? Decades?

    • How reversible is the impact described in the impact analysis? Can it be easily stopped/extended?


    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.


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