Journalism is a concept that requires no explanation. As regards the concept of contemporary Ukrainian journalism, however, there are a lot of questions about the nature of the phenomenon. Hundreds of Ukrainian schools of higher education in journalism use incomprehensible and outdated models to train Ukrainian journalists, who emerge from these approaches as exactly the same kind of worker, which is to say, almost incapable of doing anything. In particular, Ukrainian journalists are often untrained regarding the use of information, and are unable to fact-check or verify information. They thus become, through their own miseducation and incapacity amplifiers of fake news as often as true.
There is also such a thing as “counter-journalism”. However, there is little information about this phenomenon in publicly available sources. The counter-journalism specialism does not exist as a social role. Counter-journalism specialists are needed, however, by someone who is a public figure and is subjected to an information war or sustained information attacks.
It is therefore likely that the profession of “counter-journalist” will exist in the future (even if not under this name). Counter-journalists’ role will be to identify actors engaged in information attacks, uncovering their methods, and designing effective countermeasures to neutralize their impact. Such methods have been discussed at a private meeting of members of the European Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, under the patronage of the Information Security Institute.
International experts and scholars recorded videos especially for this meeting, in which participants expressed the opinion that defamation is extremely difficult to combat. One of the usual recommendations made by experts was to create a positive image before a media attack takes place, so that people will not believe the slander. These kinds of recommendations, according to the speakers, show that experts do not know how to counteract defamation. In the west, defamation is mostly dealt with through the judicial system. In the U.S., Australia, Britain, and Canada, defamation is a civil-law offense, meaning no one goes to jail. Defamation lawsuits in these countries always involve an affected party suing another person for damages (compensation).
To effectively neutralize the consequences of defamation, the speakers presented technical methods and journalistic methods of neutralization, combinations of which give the optimal result.
TECHNICAL METHODS AND JOURNALISTIC METHODS
During an information attack, a target has a technical capability to remove an article from Google’s SERP (the algorithm by which it generates search results). Disinformation which is unavailable on Google has substantially reduced reach. As the experts told us, there are a large number of options for securing the removal of defamatory content from SERP. However, the technical part alone does not solve the main issue — explaining to people what is going on. Counter-journalism or journalistic methods of neutralizing defamatory articles handle this task. The methods presented are not a matter of filling search results with positive results. Instead, counter-journalism using journalistic methods forms the desired public opinion by neutralizing the discredit.
If someone targeted by disinformation only uses removal methods and SEO methods, there are risks that the attack will be amplified. The target will appear to be trying to censor the attacker or cover up true information about themselves. This is the case because the same methods can equally be employed against disinformation and against whistleblowing. The use of technical methods can also lead to the “Streisand effect”, named after an incident where a celebrity’s attempts to remove photographs of her house massively increased access to these photographs by creating a censorship-focused media event. Unless people understand that a cyberattack is taking place, the use of technical methods to remove or hide disinformation carries a risk of exponentially increasing the flow of discrediting material. Therefore, only a comprehensive approach incorporating counter-journalism is generally effective.
Counter-journalism is a set of techniques used to locate and neutralize defamatory information, and also a set of preventive actions to stop the release of defamatory materials.
Counter-journalism will be an increasingly in-demand occupation in the near future, although it is a new phenomenon today. The demand for assistance in neutralizing defamatory articles is huge, and information attacks are becoming more common by the day. There is some overlap between counter-journalism and the existing profession of public relations (PR). However, there is a difference between the two. The main role of PR professionals is to organize or generate positive media events. The main role of counter-journalists is to provide expert articles and information so as to counter the spread of disinformation.