While noting some Australian publishers’ lack of operational transparency, a new report concludes that most are trustworthy.
However more than a quarter of news websites were found to deliberately publish inaccurate content to suit their agendas.
Research by Queensland University of Technology with the UK-based Global Disinformation Index looked at content and editorial integrity of 34 sites in its ‘Disinformation Risk Assessment: The Online News Market in Australia’.
Nearly three quarters of the sites samples had “low to minimum risk of disinforming their online users, and only a limited number posed “high or maximum levels of disinformation risk”.
While low and medium risk media sites “tend to perform well”, the report said there was “room for improvement” in the Operations pillar. “Many of the risk factors in Australia come from a lack of transparency on editorial checks and balances in their newsrooms,” it says.
It lists the nine lowest-risk domains – SBS News (pictured), news.com.au, ABC, Herald Sun, Courier Mail, 7news.com.au, Daily Telegraph, Perth Now, and Canberra Times – which perform “almost perfectly” in Content pillar indicators, but not those at the “maximum risk” end of the spectrum.
Three outlets identified for their high risk of peddling disinformation “almost exclusively share hyperpartisan political content, with highly sensationalised, cherry-picked, and/or explicitly biased articles”.
The report notes that in 2011, only China and Egypt – with state-controlled media – had greater media concentration than Australia and deals after media ownership rules were later changed meant Australian media was “predominantly controlled by News Corp and Nine”.
GDI says it aims to expose the perils of inaccurate reporting and to “disrupt, defund and down-rank disinformation sites”.
Results of the study were based on analysis of ten anonymised articles from each site and their transparency regarding editorial policy, ownership, funding, fact-checking guidelines and correction procedures.