2nd International Event in Sicily

Understanding the Impact of Disinformation

3/15/20244 min read

On 24th of February 2023, the second international event of the project "D.o.D. - Democracy over Disinformation" (project number CERV-2022-CITIZENS-CIV-101081216:), financed by the CERV (Citizens, Equals, Rights and Values) program of the European Union, was held in Palermo. The conference took place from 9 a.m. until about 2 p.m. at the premises of the former church of San Mattia ai Crociferi, located in the historic Kalsa district, in the very heart of the Sicilian capital. The aforementioned premises were given in concession by the Department of Urban Planning, an important city institution that collaborates under the close supervision of the City of Palermo.

The conference saw the active presence of about 80 citizens, students, professors and journalists and saw the birth and evolution of a very interesting democratic debate on the various themes of the project: above all, the disinformation and the increasingly intense and pervasive phenomenon of fake news.

The moderator began with a greeting to the audience, introducing to the public the motivations of the conference. The consortium’s partner associations from Lithuania, Germany and Italy (which in this case also played the role of host for this event), were presented.

After the official presentations of the consortium members, a first phase of the debate began when the considerations emerged during the first international event held in Kaunas, Lithuania (Unique Projects’, the project coordinator partner, headquarters,): a series of reflections on the impact of fake news in the social, political and economic context of various European countries, which were further expanded by a series of local interviews in the consortium countries.

The conference then got under way: the Italian partner, CEIPES, presented the results of the interviews obtained so far, analysing them from a predominantly statistical point of view. The surveys were joined by some comments from the public: the main issues were analysed in terms of fake news, whose main topics are similar to those of many other European states: in particular, health (for example, interesting reflections emerged during the period of the pandemic, which was punctuated by so much false news about vaccines and consequences of the illness), the black and pink chronicle, the war in Ukraine, etc. Very incisive was the exchange of thoughts between some high school teachers and an accredited journalist about the ethical vision of journalism.

The first speaker and guest of the conference was the reporter and editor Giovanni Villino of TGS (Sicilian news), who clarified some important concepts (such as the lexical difference between the word "disinformation" and "misinformation") and has literally provoked the assembly with a series of questions of relevant importance, such as the correct use of social media in the search for news and the use of content for information purposes.

It was then arranged a coffee break of about thirty minutes, before returning to the room and starting with the second phase of the debate. This time it was the turn of the second speaker and guest, the journalist Stefano Edward Puvadendrarajah, who is an exponent of the independent online newspaper "Il Mediterraneo 24", based in the city of Palermo. The journalist took the opportunity to talk about the relationship between news journalism and the perception of migration, which has been rampant for some time in Europe and other parts of the world and which often leaves room for false or inaccurate interpretations. The participants were then involved in a social reflection that triggered a debate on how news reports, on this topic, are often distorted in favor of racist and conservative ideals: the debate made emerged that, indeed, not infrequently the news about migratory flows are falsified precisely to feed social and racist stereotypes; Stefano has tried to eradicate these ideologies, rather inviting to critical discernment.

Subsequently, two professors from the University of Palermo were invited to attend the conference: Professor Cinzia Ferrara (associate professor of the Faculty of Architecture) and Professor Marcello Costa, from the same department of studies. The professors had the opportunity to present a speech entitled "Fake News and Design", focusing on the strictly graphic part of fake news and how, often, our visual perception is deceived by some visual and graphic expedients. Here too, there has been room for reflection and criticism, observing how often some organizations used the aforementioned expedients to pass false or misleading messages.

Finally, the German partner of the consortium, Einzigartige Projekte, had the opportunity to present the results of the interviews conducted so far in all the partner countries, explaining what has been done and how we can still improve our standards, inviting the Italian public in the room to participate actively in the reflection and democratic debate.

Participants’ feedback:

“Time management”.

“Event was very well organised, I enjoyed it”.

“Andate avanti così!” (ENG: Go ahead like this!)

“Molto interessante, unica cosa migliorabile è l'evitare interventi virtuali in conferenze in presenza (ovviamente quando possibile)”. (ENG: Very interesting, the only thing that can be improved is to avoid virtual interventions in conferences in presence (obviously when possible)).