Contemporary Communications Challenges Impeding Evidence-Based Policy Implementation
[A client] requested a proof-of-concept project intended to address a number of Australian communications challenges. These obstacles currently impede the implementation of evidence-based policy that would yield social, economic, and environmental benefits for all Australians.
Many of these obstacles are the product of deliberate, networked disinformation. These are fuelled by a coalition of interests including - but not limited to - the fossil fuel industry, neo-liberal ideologues, and the global far right.
These interests function symbiotically with sympathetic media outlets and governments via shared resources and mutual message amplification. Numerous sophisticated communications tools have been developed and/or harnessed to this effect. The extent of this disinformation apparatus’s reach is only beginning to be understood.
Much has been made of ‘fake news’ outlets and their capacity to influence political events. Various attempts at combating this scourge are currently in development. The true challenge, however, lies in addressing disinformation emerging from established media outlets and governments themselves.
The Australian information ecosystem is further compromised by the highest concentration of media ownership in the democratic world. That ownership is primarily in the hands of those hostile to science and diversity. This hostility in turn augments global far right disinformation operations in this country, threatening Australia’s social, economic, and environmental wellbeing.
The globally networked disinformation apparatus has only been made possible through funding and support from a variety of sources - both government and private. Fortunately, due to the relatively low costs of digital publishing and communications, a law of diminishing returns applies. This allows more modestly funded operations to compete with larger outfits and even state actors.
Indeed, the far right has revealed its tactics and methodologies sufficiently that these can now be harnessed and appropriated by those committed to evidence-based information and social cohesion.
Any such response, however, must ensure that it does not contribute to further political polarisation. Unfortunately, much activist Australian media has failed in its attempt to convince sectors of the population that they are subject to disinformation. This failure is attributable to ‘echo-chambers’ and the - likely unintended - impression that the messaging is coming from ‘elites’ who are contemptuous of ‘aspirational’ Australians.
Proposed, is a project primarily committed to two complementary functions: the dissemination of evidence-based information and social cohesion. It targets an audience currently unwilling or unable to source good information, of which there is fortunately an abundance. The challenge lies not in the information’s availability but in its packaging, sensibility, and reach.
The mission is at once simple and ambitious: it seeks to disrupt the current Australian information ecosystem for those currently underserved by good sources of information, to engage on issues that matter to them, and to do so in a way that is authentic, enjoyable, and meaningful.
The proposed project is above all a service to Australians. With adequate resources, there is unlimited potential for the media offerings it could produce - from written content, to videos, podcasts, and music. It could also showcase the creative talents of a variety of people, including marginalised groups who are otherwise unable to gain entry into the public sphere. Amplification of various voices in the pursuit of good information and greater national unity would provide a mutually reinforcing counter to the dystopian vision currently offered by the networked global far right and its allies.
Such a project also has the potential to expand - as it stands, a news aggregator that transforms complex stories into digestible informational product - to a platform that can serve as a multi-directional engagement medium: social media that rewards good information and pro-social online behaviours. This would stand in stark contrast to the current social media offerings which are fuelled by conflict and controversy, without any concern for accuracy or the social good.
This project has enormous commercial potential; however, its greatest contribution would be the repairing of the Australian social fabric, which in turn might provide a model that could be replicated throughout the world.
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