Information disorder seems just as another tech-induced curse of modern times, alongside more analog threats such as climate change, migration, declining bio diversity and all its interconnectivities. But how can we have a healthy debate to solve all these issues if our information space is polluted and corrupted to an extent it no longer functions? Or, worse, to which extent might online disinformation, misinformation and malinformation even drive these challenges to new levels? German chancellor Angela Merkel was ridiculed a few years ago when she referred to the Internet as entering Neuland–new territory. But this is where we are. The more we progress into the Digital Age at an ever accelerating speed, the less we seem to know about it. Which roles can politics and regulation, civil society, the private sector and academia play to get things right? What are the respective responsibilities, approaches and failures slowly becoming visible as populism, hate speech and privacy violations become pandemic? Can we save our human-rights- and rule-of-law-based type of civilization at the advent of a Forth Industrial Revolution, with an Internet of things, AI and China about to take over?
Olaf Steenfadt heads the “Media Ownership Monitor” project and the “Journalism Trust Initiative” at the press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders. For many years, he has been engaged as a consultant and coach in media development cooperation. Mandates of international organizations and NGOs lead him primarily to Southeast Europe and the Arab world. He previously worked for national German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF in various roles, including as a radio and TV presenter, investigative reporter, domestic and foreign correspondent, as well as in format development and corporate communication. Olaf Steenfadt is a member of the “High-level Expert Group on Fake News and Online Disinformation” of the European Commission and of the “Committee of Experts on Quality of Journalism in the Digital Age” at the Council of Europe.