Global experts on misinformation First Draft have launched their first bureau in the Asia-Pacific region to assist journalists and publishers unearth and expose misleading, false and untrue claims.
The First Draft Bureau will be based at the Centre for Media Transition (CMT) at the University of Technology Sydney.
It will train and work with professional journalists and student reporters across the country to develop the skills and expertise to reveal disinformation networks that threaten Australian democracy.
The aim of the First Draft Sydney Bureau at the CMT is to upskill and provide real world experience to the next generation of journalists via innovative, practical projects.
Political misinformation is a key concern of Australian voters, who will head to the polls next month.
One of the Sydney Bureau’s first tasks will be to conduct a collaborative monitoring of the Australian federal election.
“We’re really proud to be opening this bureau in Sydney, and to be working with local partners across the region. Disinformation and hate are increasingly intertwined, and investigating these networks is a complex challenge, one that requires different sectors and industries to work together,” said Claire Wardle, First Draft executive chair.
“We’re already seeing influence campaigns playing out in the lead-up to the vote, but more importantly we want to create a collaborative network that will continue past election day.”
The opening of the First Draft Sydney Bureau has been funded by the Google News Initiative as part of a series of innovative projects in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We’re pleased to be supporting First Draft in opening their first bureau in APAC, working with local partners UTS,” said Nic Hopkins, Google News Lab lead for Australia and New Zealand.
Disinformation and hate are increasingly intertwined, and investigating these networks requires different sectors and industries to work together.
“We’ve supported First Draft at a global level since 2015 and together we’re committed to stemming the flow of misinformation and disinformation by collaborating directly with news organisations, especially ahead of elections.”
The CMT is an applied, collaborative research centre within the Faculties of Law and Arts and Social Sciences at UTS. It is concerned with news industry best practice, new business models and regulatory adaptation in digital environments.
CMT’s co-director Peter Fray said, “The prevalence of misinformation threatens to undermine the very fabric of our society, the stakes are that high.”
“The CMT in particular and UTS in general are delighted to be part of the First Draft initiative and to play our part in making public debate more evidence-based and hopefully civil.”
First Draft’s Australian bureau will be headed by Anne Kruger, an experienced journalist and academic, who recently led research into misinformation in the Asia-Pacific region for the University of Hong Kong.
“First Draft Australia is casting a wide net into social media for deep discovery of potential disinformation issues circulating online over the election period,” Kruger said.
“But it doesn’t stop there. Our coalition of media and academic collaborators is working to sort information from misinformation which can have ongoing ramifications in the offline world.”
The First Draft Australia team will work closely with the CMT to help design teaching and training materials as well as lead research into the changing nature of journalistic practice and the ways in which citizens and media interact.
First Draft is headquartered in London and led by managing director Jenni Sargent. First Draft will also have a bureau in New York, at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism CUNY. The Australian and New York bureaux will work closely with the London office to share verification resources, map disinformation networks and encourage and support cross-border collaboration on the CrossCheck International platform.