Working on a New Book on False News in the Global South

The lead researchers of the Misinformation, Disinformation & False News Research Project, Herman Wasserman and Dani Madridd-Morales, are working on an edited volume titled Rumors, false news and disinformation in the Global South. It will be published by Wiley, and it is expected to come out in early 2021.

This edited collection will bring together perspectives on the phenomenon of disinformation as it manifests in the Global South, with contributions from a dozen of scholars from 10 countries. While current debates around coordinated political disinformation discampaigns, circulation of rumors, and increased amounts of junk news are tightly connected to the development anddis popularization of digital and social media, in many parts of the Global South these phenomena are tightly linked to older communication practices, which predate the digital revolution.

The rise and spread of ‘fake news’ has received an extraordinary amount of popular and scholarly attention in recent years. There is now consensus that the term ‘fake news’ is problematic for conceptual and political reasons. Despite controversies around the term itself, there is widespread consensus about the negative impact that disinformation may have on the quality of public discourse, the availability of accurate political information to citizens and the deepening of democratic culture. Although the majority of scholarship in this area has been based on experiences in the Global North, recent studies have however shown that the phenomenon is widespread in the Global South, and in some cases perceived exposure to mis- and disinformation even exceeds that in the Global North.

Despite being under-researched, the Global South is an important context within which to study how disinformation relates to political systems, socio-economic conditions and public culture. Politically, the Global South displays a range of systems ranging from authoritarian regimes to (often precarious) democracies, marked by conditions of severe socio-economic inequality and public cultures of popular dissent, low levels of trust in the government and mainstream media and histories of violence and oppression that remain reflected in ongoing social conflicts. There’s also a wide array of media systems, some with high levels of government control, to others that are widely privatized, but where political parallelism and clientelism are common.

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