The 12th Hamburg Media Symposium took place on 5 July 2022 under the title "Anything but "Sweet Little Lies" ... - On Disinformation and the Possibilities and Limits of Existing Tools to Fight It". In front of around 100 guests, experts discussed disinformation as a social problem and the role of different actors in the development of concepts and solutions. The event was moderated by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz
(Director Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut).
After introductory impulses on the topic, Katharina Fegebank
(Second Mayor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and Senator for Science, Research, Equality and Districts), Eva-Maria Sommer
(Director MA HSH), Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz and Dr. Gregor Wiedemann
(Senior Researcher at the HBI) with moderator Prof. Dr. Christian Stöcker
(Head of Digital Communication Studies, HAW Hamburg) spoke in a panel discussion about disinformation and the challenges it entails. The different perspectives from media policy and supervision, media practice and science proved to be multifaceted and complementary. Personal experiences with disinformation campaigns were also discussed. Katharina Fegebank reported on campaigns in the context of the Bundestag elections, which were directed against her party on a content level as well as against the candidate for chancellor, Annalena Baerbock, on a personal level.
Wolfgang Schulz emphasised, "In the area of disinformation, there is no simple solution, only many small adjusting screws. Politics must not give up the idea of a shared reality despite all the differences."
Eva-Maria Sommer concluded that "there are a few things that we, the providers and the socially legitimised legislator, still have to work on together. An important step would be to oblige social media providers to take action against disinformation and at the same time to ensure feedback to society and supervision by the media institutions on the measures taken. This is the only way to manage the difficult balancing act between freedom of expression and curbing disinformation."
The second part of the event focused on countermeasures in practice and the search for concepts to strengthen resilience in society. Prof. Dr. Christian Stöcker and Dr. Gregor Wiedemann used the example of conspiracy narratives about alleged bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine to illustrate what computer-based, network-analytical methods can contribute to the detection of disinformation. They conclude that early detection can warn against disinforming narratives, and identify so-called pre-bunking and the strengthening of general counter-narratives as promising ways of dealing with emerging conspiracy narratives.
As a further approach to fighting disinformation, Sarah Thust presented the role of fact checkers using the example of Correctiv. Marie-Teresa Weber explained how Meta deals with disinformation and Lidia de Reese used the example of FSM e.V. projects to illustrate the potential of countering disinformation with media education.
The Hamburg Media Symposium is a joint event series of the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans Bredow Institute, the Media Authority Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein (MA HSH) and the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce. This year's event was recorded by TIDE – Hamburgs Bürger:innensender und Ausbildungskanal
[Hamburg's citizen broadcasting and education channel] - and is available on the channel's YouTube channel.
Photo: Hamburg Chamber of Commerce/Stefan Bungert; on the picture from left: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulz, Prof. Dr. Christian Stöcker, Dr. Gregor Wiedemann, Eva-Maria Sommer, Marie-Teresa Weber, Sarah Thust and Lidia de Reese.