Disinformation is one of the main threats to democracies and press freedom. In this context, the International Press Institute (IPI) has developed a training program for journalists on how to investigate disinformation campaigns targeting journalists and media outlets.

The training is based on the methodology developed by IPI in the framework of its project “Decoding the Disinformation Playbook“, a joint initiative with the media outlets Taz (Germany) and Faktograf (Croatia).

The workshop is structured in 4 modules:

Module 1: Introduction of the trainer, host and participants

Module 2: Investigating disinformation campaigns against journalists: IPI has been conducting a series of investigations, in cooperation with investigative journalists and fact-checkers, to expose the actors, tactics and narratives by extremists movements, populists and conspiracy theorists to intimidate and discredit the work of journalist and fact-based journalism. 

We will share the methodological framework consists of four main areas that guided our research:

  1. Context and Description of the Attack: The context is important because it helps assess the reputational, emotional and physical risk that the attack can potentially have on the journalist or media outlet.
  2. Description of the Attack: We established the anatomy of the attack by identifying the triggers, and the elements used to disseminate the attack (videos, graphs, memes, hashtags, etc.)
  3. Actors: Who is behind the attack? Identify both actors instigating the attacks and the perpetrators.
  4. Framing of the journalists: Identify the disinformation narratives against the target –journalists and news outlets– as well as the associated narratives.

This methodological framework is not one-size-fits-all as the approach to investigating disinformation campaigns will always need to be adapted to the context. However, in sharing our methodology, we hope to provide other investigators and researchers with a useful tool for identifying the TTPs of disinformation campaigns that weaponise online harassment and intimidation and smear tactics against media outlets with the goal of silencing critical journalism and eroding the audience’s trust in reliable, evidence-based news.

Meet the trainer

Javier Luque is the Head of Digital Communications for the International Press Institute, where he coordinates advocacy and communication on IPI’s digital platforms. He has worked on the issue of online hate against journalists and media organisations since 2014. His research on this topic has been quoted by media worldwide such as The Guardian, The British Journalism Review and Bloomberg News. In 2018, he directed “A Dark Place”, his third film documentary, which premiered at Vienna’s This Human World film festival. He has also worked as a consultant for the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media for their project on Safety of Female Journalists Online. Before joining IPI, Javier worked as a broadcast and multimedia journalist for local and international news organisations.