Coronavirus round-up: government censorship, paywalls, and how social media platforms are reacting to the ‘infodemic’

Our personal weekly selection about journalism and innovation.

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Edited by Marco Nurra

Hungarian journalists fear coronavirus law may be used to jail them. The measures, in place since Monday, have been roundly criticised for the sweeping powers they hand to the nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, to rule by decree. Another part of the bill provides penalties of up to five years in prison for those spreading misinformation during the pandemic. Journalists in the country say the new law is already being used to deny them access to information, and on occasion to threaten them.

The death of Hungary’s democracy is a worldwide press-freedom warning. “Even in established democracies, the spread of the virus has led to encroachments on all sorts of liberties we previously took for granted. Drastic curbs, clearly, are necessary. But many governments will need no invitation to go too far, and the consequences, if they do, could be hard to entangle afterward.”

How coronavirus is affecting free speech in Europe. As coronavirus spreads across Europe so do issues surrounding the transparency and accuracy of information on it. This is deeply troubling given the importance of reliable information about the pandemic. So what exactly are the main roadblocks to accurate facts? Here are the key trends when it comes to coronavirus and free expression in Europe.

In Brazil, dismissing coronavirus misinformation with in-depth investigations. Brazilian journalists face not only the challenge of the coronavirus itself, but a president whose misleading posts have been deleted by Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

India’s government wants to censor the media to fight Covid-19 – but transparency is a better weapon. On Tuesday, it emerged that the Indian government had asked the Supreme Court to legalise censorship. Claiming that there is a high chance of panicked reactions based on “any deliberate or unintended fake or inaccurate reporting”, it urged the court to issue orders that would not allow any news to be published or broadcast without media organisations first “ascertaining the true factual position” – meaning whatever the government says. The Supreme Court ultimately chose not to institute a system of censorship, but accepted the government’s dubious claim that the mass exodus of migrant workers over the last week was due to fake news. “We do not intend to interfere with the free discussion about the pandemic, but direct the media refer to and publish the official version about the developments,” the court said in its verdict.

A fast-food chain is paying to take down 16 Canadian newspapers’ paywalls this month. We live in unprecedented times. Communities world over have willingly isolated themselves in their homes to stop the spread of a virus. Travel and socializing has ground to a halt, leaving parks, arenas, and bars empty. And a fried chicken chain is stepping in to make sure Canadians can access journalism.

Coronavirus: How are the social media platforms responding to the ‘infodemic’? As rumours and hoaxes about Covid-19 spread, here’s how the biggest platforms are working to tackle misinformation.

Facebook invests additional $100 million to support news industry during the coronavirus crisis. “Through the COVID-19 Community Network grant program, direct funding is helping journalists cover important stories when we all need them most. We’re building on this work and will direct a portion of these funds to publishers most in need in the hardest hit countries. The first round of these grants went to 50 local newsrooms in the US and Canada.”

Google announces $6.5 million in funding to fact-checkers and nonprofits fighting coronavirus misinformation. “Today’s announcement is one of several efforts we’re working on to support those covering this pandemic. We look forward to sharing more soon.”

How First Draft is working with journalists and the public to ensure credible coverage in critical moments. First Draft is sharing skills, insights and tools to support reporters and the wider public respond to the ‘infodemic’ following the outbreak of coronavirus.

Covid-19: how to be careful with trust and expertise on social media. “The best way to fight misinformation is to swamp the landscape with accurate information that is easy to digest, engaging, and easy to share on mobile devices. It should also answer people’s questions and, ultimately, fears,” says Claire Wardle, a leading specialist in the spread of disinformation and founder of the First Draft News project.

These 6 tips will help stop the spread of COVID-19 misinformation. Author John Green, “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt, YouTube influencers Tyler Oakley and Ingrid Nilsen, and other MediaWise ambassadors have created a PSA to help stop the spread of COVID-19 misinformation.