The Source Criticism and Mediated Disinformation (SCAM) project’s main objective is to develop principles for and practices of digital source criticism and media and information literacy in relation to emerging technologies, with special emphasis on detection and countering of disinformation. This objective includes the advancement of journalists’ ability to critically scrutinize sources and information in a digital age; journalism educators ability to teach digital source criticism; and an improvement of the skills and knowledge needed to enhance media and information literacy in societies at large.

Disinformation, including “fake news”, propaganda, and media manipulation, has in recent years dominated the media and political landscapes. Disinformation is destructive to the fabric of society because it can potentially (and has) erode(d) public trust in the media, politicians, and institutions, degraded political debate, shut down opposition, threatened the integrity of electoral processes, and intensified political and ideological polarization—all of which contribute to undermining the legitimacy of democracies and their functioning (European Commission, 2018). And even when people and organizations reveal disinformation as untrue and debunk it, disinformation can continue to shape people’s attitudes and opinions (Thorson, 2016). In response to the proliferation of digital disinformation, journalists and the news media now need to ensure that their routines and practices fight back against disinformation such as by producing high-quality reporting.

SCAM project will identify the main challenges related to the ways in which technology and platforms affect the distribution of disinformation in public spheres and ways to detect and counter it, specifically during periods of elections; and it will provide cutting-edge knowledge and practical methods for Digital Source Criticism in journalism in particular and media and information literacy in general.

The project’s outcomes will equip researchers, practitioners, teachers and other user groups with conceptual and practical tools for how Digital Source Criticism and media and information literacy can be understood and performed in an age of digitally distributed disinformation. The objectives will be met through critical, empirical analysis of the challenges tech and platform companies, fact checking organisations and journalists face when they address the problems of detecting and countering the diffusion of disinformation in public spheres.

The project will deliver several outcomes:

  1. New academic and practical knowledge on how to effectively detect and counter the diffusion of disinformation in democratic societies.
  2. New pedagogical guides for teaching source criticism to journalism students and media and information literacy in higher education in general.

SCAM is led by researchers affiliated with the Digital Journalism Research Group at Oslo Metropolitan University, in cooperation with leading researchers from the University of Minnesota, Christiania University College, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the USA, and the Reuters Institute for the study of Journalism in the UK. The project is funded by KULMEDIA – Research Programme on the Culture and Media Sector.