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How to use technology to fight fake news and prevent PR crises

The ability for misinformation and disinformation to masquerade as news and go viral has never been greater. With new social platforms on the scene and influencers growing in importance across multiple industries, the heat on the bubbling crisis cauldron is high.

TikTok is breaking news stories. Artificial Intelligence (AI)-generated political imagery and deep fake voice-duplication of celebrities are rising. The shock factor of inaccurate content and the desire to partake in trending conversations have contributed to the ease with which misleading content can reach the masses overnight.

79% of UK consumers are worried about the spread of fake news, so organisations and comms professionals must go beyond outdated technology to maintain trust. The challenge isn't solely about legacy technology. It’s about streamlining the outdated process of manually scouring the content online, sifting through countless articles and social media hashtags for the conversations that matter. As online content volumes reach saturation breaking point, organisations must put measures in place to maintain trust efficiently in this era of accountability and cancel culture.

AI and crisis management

In the battle against misinformation, time is of the essence. Misleading narratives can spread like wildfire. Consider the 2020 U.S. presidential election, where deepfake videos of Joe Biden using AI manipulated the words of the now-president and sold a distorted version of reality to the public. The videos called the integrity of the election into question by sowing doubt and confusion among voters.

AI tools built into monitoring and measurement tools can be vital for identifying and flagging hero or zero content. To effectively implement this, organisations can use automation to enhance their crisis management strategies. By automating the analysis of large volumes of data, AI can summarise the sentiment of a hashtag or volume of articles in a way that is impossible for a crisis team to achieve manually.

AI can also analyse content to detect subtle inconsistencies and discrepancies, enabling organisations to debunk false narratives before they inflict lasting damage. By incorporating these measurement approaches into workflows, organisations can significantly enhance their ability to respond swiftly and effectively to crises.

The role of 'always on' analytics

Organisations need more than just sporadic assessments of the situation to combat the spread of misinformation effectively. To do so, organisations can start by integrating monitoring and analytics solutions that measure the main drivers of discussion, identify which platforms and stakeholders are influencing the narrative, and assess how the audience is reacting.

For instance, during the Covid-19 pandemic, monitoring the media in real-time played a pivotal role in tracking the spread of virus misinformation. To implement analytics effectively, organisations can establish automated monitoring systems that continuously track coverage distribution across various media channels and how sentiment evolves in real time. This proactive approach, powered by technology, helps organisations stay ahead of the curve and identify potential threats before they gain a life of their own.

Armed with these insights, organisations can craft targeted responses to their stakeholders. Whether reaching out to customers directly over email with the facts or issuing a press release to journalists to settle the score.

Tech helps you stay agile

Legacy systems often lack the agility and processing power required to navigate the fast-paced world of misinformation. Take the Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2015, for example. The German automobile manufacturer faced widespread criticism when the media revealed it had manipulated emissions data in their vehicles. The rumoured reluctance to upgrade their data proved costly. Not only in financial terms but also in significant damage to its reputation and consumer trust. As a result, the commitment of Volkswagen to environmental standards was questioned.

Outdated digital architecture, poor data structures, a lack of updates, and an inability to scale efficiently contribute to the limitations of existing tech stacks. Organisations can begin modernising their digital infrastructure with a thorough assessment of where the gaps in their existing tech stack are and what needs an update. Once an audit is done, organisations can swiftly identify and rectify issues that can negatively impact the business in the short and long term.

A crisis-ready approach

In this era of misinformation, organisations must adopt a crisis-ready approach. Leveraging AI capabilities can improve monitoring and evaluation. Embracing 'always-on' analytics and shedding outdated legacy infrastructure equips organisations with the insights needed to anticipate and recover from misinformation crises. In doing so, organisations protect their reputation and foster a culture of trust and transparency in an increasingly uncertain digital landscape.

In the battle against misinformation, technology is a powerful tool, one that organisations must wield to emerge victorious from the perpetrators of inaccurate content. An agile and technology-driven approach is essential for staying ahead of the evolving challenges of misinformation in the modern world.

Written by Richard Bagnall, co-managing partner at media intelligence provider CARMA, CEO Europe and Americas

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